Staff Picks

Corb Lund - El Viejo

Wise, honest and fun, it’s a collection for the good times and the bad, resonating whether you come out swinging or come up short.

Corb Lund - El Viejo Album Cover
February 21, 2024 3:39 pm GMT

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El Viejo. “The Old Man”. It’s a descriptor that can easily spark offense within those who don’t understand its power. The words are well-earned. They carry with them a sense of profound wisdom, casual humor, and unbridled honesty that’s difficult to come by. Christening his latest release as such, Corb Lund imbues El Viejo and its 11 tracks with the same time-worn qualities.

Recorded entirely in his living room, El Viejo finds the Canadian troubadour stripping his sound bare and letting the tape roll. What resulted is a no-frills, laid-back take on his usual high-powered and polished Western folk. It’s an incisive collection, clear and cutting, full of reflective songs that speak to life’s failures and triumphs, tunes that make unlikely legends out of fighters, gamblers, junkies, and of course, old men.

From the start, the release is all energy, pocked with wheelin’, dealin’, good-timin’ tracks like the scorching opener ‘The Cardplayer,’ the chug-a-lugging opus ‘I Had It All,’ and the debaucherous ditty ‘Redneck Rehab.’ There are lessons to be learned in many of them, the sinister waltz ‘The Game Gets Hot’ and the thumping, gypsy jazz-flecked ‘It Takes Practices’ imparting their own questionable morals.

However, the album is also riddled with throat-tightening sentiment. The title track, written as a tribute to celebrated singer-songwriter and Lund’s former mentor, the late Ian Tyson, is a bittersweet farewell against a simple beat and a scattering of strings. ‘Out On a Win,’ a chokehold of a song about aging and what it means to put up a fight, is another that stings just as much as it salves.

El Viejo is a commendable blend of raucous tales and hard-won truths. While a slight departure from Lund’s full-throttle country and Western, the album is sturdy, each song with legs to stand – or rather stagger about, stumble, and get back up again – on. Wise, honest and fun, it’s a collection for the good times and the bad, resonating whether you come out swinging or come up short.

8.5 / 10

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Written by Alli Patton
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