Songwriter brings tales to Sisters


Last updated 7/4/2023 at 2:18pm

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Corb Lund will throw a wide musical loop at Big Ponderoo.

When Corb Lund's boots hit the boards on the Big Ponderoo stage on Sunday, June 25, he'll be serving up the eclectic range of "Americana" music that defines Sisters' newest festival.

Backed by the crack band The Hurtin' Albertans, the Canadian songwriter throws down rocking alt-country barn-burners and elegiac ballads, the writing shifting from comedic to poignant without ever mashing the gears.

The through line in all his music is the lifeways and landscape of the North American West. Coming from six generations of Alberta ranchers, Lund delves deep into the well of history for some of his songs; others reflect the joys and challenges of contemporary life on the prairies and in the mountains, from Oregon to Alberta. And there are a lot of songs about horses. In a show in Las Vegas last December, he quipped that all of his love songs seem to end up being about horses.

Lund's musical range and easygoing personality have built for him an audience that crosses cultural boundaries- a crowd at a Corb Lund show represents folkies and indie-rockers from Portland to Toronto, and oil field workers and cowboys from Edmonton to El Paso.

"It's one of the things I'm proudest of, actually," Lund told The Nugget. "I think that art and music is one of the few things in this day and age that can bring people together and remind them that they're not that different."

The ability for a culturally diverse audience to come together around good country music - a phenomenon pioneered by Willie Nelson in Austin, Texas, in the 1970s - remains a feature of the West, Lund believes.

"I feel like the American Cowboy States are a little more live-and-let-live," he said.

That includes our own state - and the Big Ponderoo festival.

"I'm excited for this festival," Lund said. "I love Oregon."

The Big Ponderoo audience is likely to get a preview of some fresh-cut Corb Lund material. He and his band are just coming off the recording of a new, as yet untitled, album. They recorded without a producer, going acoustic in Lund's living room.

He described the music as "a lot of minor keys and blues, and some gambling songs."

One candidate for the title cut is a tribute to the legendary Canadian songwriter Ian Tyson, who died last December at the age of 89. Tyson made two appearances at the Sisters Folk Festival. Lund and Tyson were friends and musical collaborators, and Lund tips his hat to Tyson in "El Viejo" (The Old One).

Another one that might make the Big Ponderoo set list may be sui generis -"Out on a Win," a tale of a mixed martial artist who yearns for one more bout.

"I think I've written the first country MMA song," Lund said.

Some of Corb Lund's most powerful songs feature lyrics that are almost prayers in honor of the land -"This Is My Prairie," "Truth Comes Out." In his heartbreakingly elegiac "Especially a Paint," he sings:

Well, I was raised with the West around, enough to hum the tune

But I never knew the place like the old boys did, Chinooked and Mountain Viewed

'Cause this was all a cathedral then, and the cowboys, they all knew

That you can't keep a loop on paradise, but she disappeared so soon

She disappeared so soon

Love for the land - and the imperative to protect it - has, in recent years, led Lund into a fight that pushed back an Australian company's coal mining project on the east slope of the Alberta Rockies.

The ardently nonpartisan Lund - who says, "I have no political dog in the fight at all" - is adamant that he is not against resource extraction across the board, and isn't telling anybody anywhere else in the world what they ought or ought not do. His fight is a specific one, protecting his own heartland.

"I was reluctantly dragged into it, because some friends had some generational ranches that were going to be destroyed," he said. "It was actually in my backyard, and it threatened the water that I drink, that my friends drink, that our cattle drink...

"Every project has to be looked at on its own merits - and this one was really stupid."

Like his music, the coal mining battle brought together a diverse, grassroots coalition of environmentalists and ranchers who all had an interest in protecting the land and water. The broad, grassroots nature of the opposition got the attention of the Canadian government, and while the fight's not over, the project has been kept at bay.

Next weekend, the singer-songwriter and band leader will saddle up for Big Ponderoo, throwing a wide loop both culturally and musically in a town that knows what that song means now.

Corb Lund will play the Three Creeks Brewing Co. stage at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 25. For tickets and information, visit

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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