Fast Forward Weekly



The driving beat of Tim Hus’s Alberta Crude

Saturday, May 1, 2004

"I’ve got quite a list of jobs," says Tim Hus as we discuss the blue-collar, workin’ man background that crops up in so many of the Calgary troubadour’s songs. "You want them all?

"Naw, that’s OK Tim. Suffice to say that the guy has been around – with stints as a saw-hand at a logging camp and another on board a salmon fishing boat being two of his past gigs. What’s more important to note is that this is an uncommon case where the singer is almost indistinguishable from the song. Over the space of two records – the newest, Alberta Crude, being released mere days from now – Hus has populated his tunes with miners, gravel pit workers and a host of other workin’ men and women that bear scant difference to himself. When it came time to start writing his own acoustic driven, rootsy songs, Hus says it just made sense.

"It’s not calculated, it’s just that musically this is where I fit in," says Hus. "It’s something I can do. I’ve got a voice for it and those are songs I can write because it’s something that I know." Indeed he does have a voice for it, one reminiscent of Stompin’ Tom Connors, one of Hus’s heroes. It ain’t an affectation though – after a minute of conversation you’ll realize his husky twang comes naturally and Hus is just singin’ with the only voice he’s got. The comparisons would probably end there but Hus also shares Connors’s penchant for keeping his subject matter north of the 49th parallel. That’s mostly because Canadian country music, he maintains, is already overfull with clichés about the American south.

"How come we’re all singin’ about the bayou and Mississippi and shit?" he asks. "I write about Canada. It’s something I can honestly write about and, ironically, pretty much nobody’s doin’ it.
"True enough. There’s a handful of like-minded musicians such as Alberta’s Corb Lund, but country music is increasingly less about the actual country and, as Hus states with a sardonic chuckle, more about "pop music made for secretaries in office buildings now." Which makes Alberta Crude something of an aberration – and refreshingly different too.

Kicking off with the title track, a detailed story of the original Alberta oil boom, all 11 tracks are devoted to uniquely western Canadian experiences with sparse, rustic guitar licks and simple, driving beats – the kind meant to keep fingers drumming on the steering wheel. Whether it’s a tune about a quintessential small town saloon with a 12-point elk rack on the wall and Ian Tyson on the jukebox, or the tale of a life chasing Yukon gold, it’s all custom designed to please both urban roots fans and the small town and rural folk.

It’s the latter crowd Hus prefers playing for, "the old guys out there stringing fence wire." Too long have they had to endure chart topping "boy bands" (Hus’s term) like Emerson Drive and Rascal Flatts – and they appreciate the step back to an older form of songwriting. "They’re like, ‘Holy shit it’s nice to have this back,’" he says. "Because there’s only so many old Marty Robbins songs you can listen to, right?"


The Top Five best day jobs ever held by singer-songwriter Tim Hus

1. Beer truck driver in Germany – You always have the right of way and people cheer when you arrive
2. Employee at a trout farm fish hatchery
3. Carpenter
4. Saw hand at a logging camp
5. Deckhand on a fishing boat

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