Fifteen years ago, Corb Lund defined his approach to modern country music:
Hair in my eyes like a highland steer, spring in my step like a white-tailed deer; hitch in my hip like an old sheep dog, puff up my chest like a big bull frog.
As fitting a self-written elegy for a rock 'n' rollin' country singer that has been scribed.
Not much has changed since 2005: Lund's hair is only slightly more stylish, but his music continues to spark with authentic assurance and acumen, and his singing delivery retains singular, confident uniqueness.
The band - Kurt Ciesla (bass), Grant Siemens (guitars) and Brady Valgardson (drums) - remains consistent, and Harry Stinson is back in the production chair, along with John Evans, for the first time since 2009's "Losin' Lately Gambler." With Handsome Harry's return - including several instrumental and vocal contributions - fiddler Tammy Rogers (The SteelDrivers) makes a pair of appearances, most evocatively on "Never Not Had Horses," also featuring Kenny Vaughan's (The Fabulous Superlatives) atmospheric guitar.
Hurtin' Albertan Lund inserts personal experiences into almost all his songs (the aforementioned "Never Not Had Horses," about his mother, being most heartfelt within this set) and that which doesn't reveal himself provide insight into those whose paths he has traversed (the lead track "90 Seconds of Your Time," a fractured, backcountry telling of post-service challenges.)
Highlights include Lund and Jaida Dreyer doing their best Prine-Dement on the playfully cheeky "I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey" (somehow rhyming 'oughta' and 'bottle') and the plainly true "Old Men" (featuring The Ancient Tones: Sam Bush, Jeff Hanna and Stinson.) Lund has never shied from inserting localized elements, and here we have "Rat Patrol," celebrating his home province's efforts to remain vermin free, as well as the more universal "Grizzly Bear Blues" ("You don't outrun the grizz, you just outrun your slowest buddy...")
The album possesses a welcome rawness "Things That Can't Be Undone" lacked. "Louis L'Amour," rural wisdom ("Dance Your Spurs On,") and - naturally - equines ("Raining Horses") also make appearances within songs co-written by Dean Dillon, Ned LeDoux and Dreyer. Late night decision-making is brought to life through the cleverly structured "Tattoos Blues," the album's capstone.
"Agricultural Tragic" is Lund's 10th album across 25 years; safe to say he has the formula established. Rare is the artist remaining fresh working within delineated parameters (think Guy Clark, Steve Forbert and Rosanne Cash), and Lund displays 'no regerts' roaring into his fifties.