CD: Corb Lund, Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!
Release date: 2007
Label: Stony Plain Records
One night my sleep was troubled by a name that kept dinging away repeatedly in my dreams. That name was Corbin Lund. While I was lying there trying to figure out who that was, I consoled myself with a promise to Google the name as soon as I got up.
In the morning I didn’t find anyone by the name of Corbin Lund, but I did find plenty of links to a Corb Lund, and when I saw that he had written and sung ?Truck Got Stuck,? I said, ?Oh, that guy!? So I checked out his latest and sent to the company for a review copy.
Not long after that, while I was out for the afternoon, my husband phoned from home to say, ?This new CD you got in the mail is incredible!? So I gave it a spin. And I agreed. (It’s all true! And it hasn’t happened before or since.)
One thing that makes Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! so valuable to culture makers is that it provides such a striking example of narrative cohesiveness.
The concept album is generally a tight-wire, producing albums from tame commercial widgets to masterpieces and everything in between.
The songs in Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! are held together by a metaphor that is full of beauty and significance in itself and yet opens the door to whatever the listener’s experience might bring to it.
The use of the image of the horse soldier?to tie together unjust wars, the exploitation of ordinary folk by reigning powers, and humanity’s undying attraction to the equine species?is ingenious.
Maybe Lund just had too much coffee to drink; I don’t know, but my hat is off.
Lund puts the western back into country and western; recalling the thematic material of Peter LaFarge songs, his lyrics have more to do with cowboys, horses, rodeos, battles, and prairies than with the more oft-cited moonshiners, mountains, and wildwood churches of the Appalachian reservoir of trad country song themes.
This is necessary, for the mythology of the cowboy is foundational to North American self-awareness regardless of the loss?in real time, not dream time?of the old-style cowboy way of life. Lund has amazingly managed to use this mythology to illuminate the experience of the universal soldier.
My favourite song on the CD, ?Especially a Paint,? is a moving tribute to the mysterious, almost mystical bond between riders and horses. Horses having long been more luxury than necessity, the country folk who once depended on them are left with a wistful longing, expressed thus by Lund: ?Whenever I see horses I see a sadness in their face.?
It’s as if his own sadness at having lost a loyal and beloved companion is projected onto horses themselves. It’s a sadness that includes a longing for a way of life in which war is a last resort and the open range a paradise you can ?keep a loop on.?
Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! manifests four of The Mindful Bard’s criteria for music well worth a listen: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it confronts existing injustices; 3) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; and 4) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful endeavour.