Not just a stopgap release between albums of new material, Counterfeit Blues is an ideal American introduction to the work of Corb Lund. For one thing, it’s recorded live on the floor at Sun Studio in Memphis, the singer and his three-piece ensemble crackling with the spirit of rockabilly heroes past and daring to get as low down and dirty as anything you’ll hear this year. For another, the track list is pulled entirely from what might be called Lund’s breakout albums in Canada, Five Dollar Bill (2002) and Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer (2005), both certified gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association before a deal with New West Records gave the wry, hyper-literate cowboy singer a higher stateside profile. That combination of proven, lived-in songs and historic recording space bring out the best in Lund and his co-conspirators, whether on the clanging jump blues of “Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle,” the honky tonk story song of “Five Dollar Bill,” the western shuffle of “Little Foothills Heaven,” the agricultural talking blues of “Truck Got Stuck,” or one of the set’s rare slow numbers like “Buckin’ Horse Rider.” Also making this a solid introduction for new listeners and a worthwhile addition for old ones: The deluxe version of Counterfeit Blues includes a DVD documentary with live performances of every track and nice contextualizing bits. If there’s any minor caveat to be offered, it’s only that Lund’s penchant for wordy lyrics delivered quickly and Canadian-ly right alongside the band would have made an included lyric booklet handy. Swept up in the spirit of Sun, it’s easy to miss some of his smartest, subtlest turns as songwriter.
Recommended if you like: Hayes Carll, BR5-49, Sturgill Simpson
Grade (Pass/Fail only): PASS