Counterfeit Blues
New West Records

For a Canadian country act, Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans sure have a good grasp of cowboy poetry and talkin’ Delta blues spot-welded to a slightly unhinged take on Western swing crossed with Bakersfield country and — if it wasn’t obvious before they opted to record Counterfeit Blues at the revered Sun Studios — old Memphis rockabilly. Given the enviable task of sorting through the band’s back catalog for their most distinctive and urgent songs for a once-in-a-lifetime recording opportunity, Lund and the band come up aces all around with clever machismo tales like “Truck Got Stuck” and “Five Dollar Bill” that transcend the approach with engagingly specific wordplay and Lund’s likeably glib delivery. No one-trick pony, he can also shift to a darker, even prophetic gear for a minor-key growl like “Truth Comes Out” or a smart-assed Bob Dylan approximation on the title track. There’s elements of Robert Earl Keen’s dark, wordy wit and Fred Eaglesmith’s humbling authenticity in Lund’s arsenal, resulting in songs like “Good Copenhagen” and “Roughest Neck Around” that feel like the internal score of a downtrodden, wisecracking, tough-as-nails hero in a semi-modern Western flick. With a high rehash ratio, it’d be easy to argue this isn’t an essential record for the Hurtin’ Albertans. But the uninitiated would do well to start here, and more seasoned fans are bound to want it anyhow — and probably love it, too. — MIKE ETHAN MESSICK

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