Sunday, November 29, 2009

His Community's Voice

Common passion and common language are the roots anchoring the tree of “community”. A common passion is a powerful bond, for even without a common language, a Bulgarian cattleman and a rancher from Manyberries can share their appreciation for a top-notch bull. Common language opens the door to greater understanding. A Leduc teenager and an English-speaking senior from Thailand can readily build bridges of common interest.
The real magic happens when a common passion is expressed in a common language. Common language articulating the shared passion sharpens the sense of “community” and deepens the linkage. That makes the gifted souls who can articulate the passions, pains and perplexities of a community in a common ‘voice” incredibly important.
Why? They give voice and credibility to a community’s values. With their use of words- spoken, written and in song, they capture a community’s essence.
Alberta singer-songwriter Corb Lund is one of those gifted souls. His songs capture the fundamental nature of the joy and angst of his community- the ranchers, roughnecks, and mavericks of rural western Canada.
Part of Corb Lund’s genius comes in his use of the everyday language spoken by his community, as his lyrics are or become part of their speech patterns. Who in rural Alberta hasn’t heard the phrase “Mighty neighborly- mighhhhty neighborly” used in kitchen or bar table conversations? While the phrase has been around since John Deere wore steel shoes, Corb Lund’s song, “The Truck Got Stuck” song, fixed it for generations in the community vernacular of rural western Canada.
I’ve been a fan of Corb Lund’s for quite a while. He speaks of the life I’ve known- unspoiled landscapes and good horses, vet clinics and ranch wrecks and bullzipping at the crossroads with a neighbor. That’s why I eagerly bought his latest CD, “Losing Lately Gambler” and slipped it into the CD player to have a listen.
When the last song ended, I sat in awed silence. If I had been wearing a hat, I would have taken it off in respect. One song in particular, “This Is My Prairie”, brought tears to my eyes. Every Albertan who gives a damn about the prairie landscape should listen to this song.
I know that I’m a good writer. My informal writer’s “voice” comes from who I am and where I come from. Two national awards for writing for rural audiences proudly hang on my office wall. I know that for my community and for my money, Corb Lund is the best writer – prose or song- working in Western Canada today. He is our community voice, and its’ scribe. I salute him.