Country Music's "Hurtin' Albertan" : Corb Lund and the Construction of "Geo-Cultural" Identity

Authors: Watson, Jada
Advisor: Lacasse, Serge
Abstract: The concept of place is integral to country music, a genre conventionally associated with geographic regions, rural landscapes, and community values. While country music literature has defined the genre’s connection to place in relation to the geography of its origins and prominent scenes, there has been a growing scholarly interest in the place-themed songs that proliferate the genre. The tradition of place songs finds its roots in early hillbilly recordings, songs of the singing cowboy, Kentucky bluegrass, and western swing, where songwriters expressed nostalgia for the seemingly simpler places and times of their childhood. These narratives do not just describe the landscape and culture of geographic regions, but rather, they also define the relationship between individuals and their surrounding environment and community, unveiling elements of the artist’s character, values, and beliefs. Focusing on the music of Canadian alt-country artist Corb Lund, this dissertation seeks to define this relationship between country singer-songwriter and place, and interrogate how he (like many other country artists) uses place songs to explore more fully his ties to his Albertan origins. More specifically, it is interested in how place-based narratives contribute to the construction of an artist’s identity, what Simon Frith (1996) calls the artistic persona. As both Richard Peterson (1997) and Pamela Fox (2009) have noted, country artists tend to refer to their origins as an act of “authentic sincerity, ” constructing personalized (often autobiographical) conceptions of place. For a study of this nature, it was important to consider the multiple layers of signification surrounding a singer-songwriter including genre, levels of artistic identity, and geographic-cultural (“geo-cultural”) association. Cultural geographic and ecomusicological discourse offers a rich understanding of the ways in which individuals respond to place and the intimate connection between the “sense of self” and the “sense of place” (Tuan 1974; Cantrill 1993; Solomon 2000). The concept “geo-cultural” identity, drawn from the political sciences (Talukder 2013), is invoked to describe this connection and define the geographic-cultural elements of an artist’s identity. Through an interrogation of Lund’s music, this dissertation explores how the singer-songwriter describes life, work, and socio-cultural issues in his native Alberta, creating diverse conceptions of place, all while constructing his uniquely Albertan “geo-cultural” identity.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2015
Open Access Date: 23 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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