With his busy touring schedule, country artist Corb Lund hasn’t released new material since 2012 — yet, he hasn’t lost the touch. His previous release, Counterfeit Blues, reinterpreted some of his most famous songs, proving Lund’s knack for adding a fresh approach to old tracks. With Friday’s release of his latest album, Things That Can’t Be Undone, that same talent is on display again.
Since his debut in 1995, Lund has released some of the most diverse modern country albums by incorporating influences from soul music, blues and rockabilly. His last original effort, Cabin Fever, wasn’t flashy but combined Western country with dark and witty rock. He attempts to build off of that success on Things That Can’t Be Undone, but it diverges in too many directions.
Producer Dave Cobb is likely the main reason for this album’s expansive feeling. His expertise in producing Americana, most notably on recent Sturgill Simpson albums, has made him the go-to hire for any country-folk artist looking to diversify their next album. However, Things That Can’t Be Undone proves that not every artist should do the same. In many instances, poor production choices cause Lund to sound out of character.
“Run This Town” was destined to become radio’s next big country hit with its simple chord progression — but with Cobb’s influence, the romantic tune transforms into an anthemic attempt to please everyone. The pedal steel guitar doesn’t help further Lund’s vocals, and the guest harmonies from Kristen Rogers turns what should have been a modest effort into a modern catch-all country failure. A similar issue occurs on “Goodbye Colorado,” which could have been a classy ode to outlaw country, but exists as a mediocre pop song at best.
Regardless, Cobb’s production has its benefits. Accompanied by an out-of-place, Buddy Holly-esque guitar riff, “Sadr City” is one of the most devastating songs on the record. Lund’s haunting lyrics about a veteran, help make the song memorable, with snare drums and reverb in key moments helping the song become the most draining but expertly crafted track on the album.
Some of Lund’s best and worst moments come when he chooses to explore the blues. “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues” is easily the most humorous criticism of the modern music business, and the honky tonk sound feels right up Lund’s alley. Two tracks later, Lund performs “Talk too Much” and finds himself on a similar path, but strays too far from his core musical influences.
By the end of this record, Lund’s musical identity is never found. The majority of tracks are executed well but fall on opposite ends of the country spectrum, meaning Lund either has a hard time expressing his message or seeks to please too wide an audience. Things That Can’t Be Undone suffers heavily from the latter.
Newer listeners to Lund’s music might think that his spin on modern country’s often monotonous formula breathes fresh air to the genre, but based on his previous releases, Thing That Can’t Be Undone is a step back, rather than a step forward.
Hopefully, Lund can find the time and inspiration to make another record soon, because Things That Can’t Be Undone will be easily forgotten. New listeners should try out some of his previous releases to get a listening experience that explores one or two of Lund’s variety of influences, rather than all of them at once.