Corb Lund‘s latest LP, Agricultural Tragic, releases today via New West Records. The latest single is a duet with Jaida Dreyer, “I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey”. Cut from the same cloth as innumerable classic country duets, the song is both tender and humorous and suggests that maybe there’s more gas in the creative fuel tank between these two beloved artists.
Dreyer and Lund co-wrote the track “Raining Horses”, which appears on Agricultural Tragic, and collaborated on the tune “Horse Poor”. It was during the cutting of that piece that Lund asked her to appear on the demo for “I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey”. Lund told PopMatters earlier in 2020 that he initially had other plans for the song. “I was going to try and recruit Dolly Parton or Tanya Tucker,” he says. “Jaida cut it as a placeholder, a demo. We all loved it, so we kept it.”
More recently, Lund offered these observations on “I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey” and his first album since 2015:
“Well folks, the time has finally arrived to release our new record Agricultural Tragic into the wild. We’re gonna let ‘er buck, pandemic, or no pandemic. Ag Trag is what I’ve been calling my sub-genre for quite a while since we don’t quite fit into any of the others. My guys and I worked our butts off making this album, and it blends all kinds of old school country music with the exotic rural content you’ve come to know and love. The latest single, ‘I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey’, is a perfect example. It’s an old fashioned country couple-style duet with my friend Jaida Dreyer, and it’s dedicated to Loretta and Conway, Kris and Rita, Johnny and June, and Tammy and George.”
Lund also spoke with PopMatters about what’s transpired in the months since he released the single “90 Seconds of Your Time” and what he believes his musical future looks like.
Had you started the touring cycle for 2020 when news of the pandemic broke?
I had. We started and played Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and then had to go home. That was about a week into it. Our whole summer, which is usually full of rodeos and festivals, went away. Our big Canadian tour has been pushed to November, and even that’s in question. You’ve got to step back and realize that you’re at the whim of a much larger historical force. [Laughs.]
Did you have to quarantine when you came back into Canada?
I couldn’t touch my girlfriend for two weeks. I couldn’t be around my mom or anyone. If it had happened at another point in my cycle, it would have been a blip. If I’m deep into writing, I hole up somewhere for months. We were invested in videos and photoshoots and van upgrades and banners and all that. But whatever. Other people have it worse than me.
I’m just trying to make the most of the time. Usually, I’ve got to fight for creative time, so I’m just going to turn it on its head and write another album or two. Aside from the financial apocalypse implications, it’s alright. I haven’t had a summer off for 20 years, and so I’ve been fixing fence on the ranch and doing amateur carpentry, seeing my mom more. I think it’s a wake-up call. Everybody’s life is so crazy these days. You’re connected to your job through your phone 24-7. It’s like a forced pause.
I haven’t been to the office since the end of March?
Do you like it?
I walk 10 feet from my bedroom to the dining room, and I’m at work. I plant myself there and stay until the end of the workday. I don’t have to fight traffic or any of that other business.
Can you imagine being in New York City, though? There’s a whole culture that’s about being out and then just coming to your apartment to sleep. Imagine having three or four roommates that you don’t really know, and you’re all in a tiny apartment together? Oh my god! I’m lucky because I live in a fairly quiet place or I can drive an hour to our ranch. People in close quarters like that must be going bananas by now. Plus, New York was an epicenter, so there’s a real threat.
Photo: Noah Falls / Courtesy of New West Records
And now I have this record coming out. I don’t think we really know what it’s like to release a record during an economic meltdown, a period of civil unrest/global pandemic. Who knows? Maybe people are ready for new music.
Did you have any thought of pulling the album entirely for 2020?
A little bit, but you really can’t. The wheels are already in motion. We’ve released a bunch of singles, and we’ve invested in promotion. I think we’re at a moment in time that people will look back on the way that they look back on the Cuban Missile Crisis or World War II. It might be one of those things where people hear the record and associate it with a time and place. History is history.
I’m really happy with this record. We didn’t release one for about five years. I had kind of lost my focus. You’re always looking for new angles or new ideas. I had two or three years where I didn’t write anything. I was kind of uninspired. For whatever reason, about 18 months ago, we hit our stride, and I wrote way more tunes than I’d normally write for a record, and I’m happy to keep writing.
Have you given thought to what live performance will look like for you?
Everybody’s feeling around in the dark right now. Some people are doing drive-in concerts. That’s not optimal because you’re listening on a car radio. Have you seen the new Chapelle special?
He’s at a house, and there’s an audience that’s distanced. That could happen. People have said they’d play in a thousand seat venue for 250. We’re going to be some of the last people to go back to work because our job is to pack people into small, sweaty places. It remains to be seen if people are going to be skittish. Like, it might be legal to have shows but what if half the audience is freaked out?
I’ve wondered about subscription services. You pay $15 a month for a particular artist, get a different show from May to June.
I’ve done live streams, but I’ve had two- or three-song swaps that didn’t work. We’ve had a hard time dialing in the platforms. Bad technical issues. I think it requires wider bandwidth. We’ve been trying to figure that out. My live stream game has really improved: I’ve got all the mics, all the gear I need. I’m getting used to hearing no applause after songs. Just dead air. [Laughs.]
Photo: Noah Falls / Courtesy of New West Records
It’s a different animal than just playing live, though, right?
It’s a bit like doing radio work. Hayes Carll told me about a gig he did some years ago where he was on a soundstage with a screen projection behind him. I think it was with Second Life. He could see the audience, but it was their avatars, sharks, cowboys. Apparently, you can’t applaud in Second Life. So, the standard thing is to do a backflip with your avatar. So, he’s in a room with a soundstage, a screen, and a bunch of weird avatars, all doing backflips at the end of a song. [Laughs.]
I know that you enjoy being out in nature. This time at home must be great for that.
I’ve spent a lot of time outside, fixing the fence. It’s kind of the spring ritual. I’m normally on the road during that. There’s one fence that goes down a cut bank by a creek. It’s real wooded, real brushy, and there’s a lot of grizzlies up there. It’s pretty intense. You’ve got to have bear spray and a shotgun with you all the time. You don’t want to scare a grizzly.