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Alberta country music star Corb Lund says a coal mining application in Southern Alberta 'is an issue that should matter to anyone who drinks water.'GLEAN PRODUCTIONS/Supplied

The coal industry has Corb Lund fired up.

The day after his new album, El Viejo, dropped late last month, the Alberta country music star made news for his criticism of Energy and Minerals Minister Brian Jean over a coal mining application in Southern Alberta and its possible effect on the province’s drinking water.

The vivid new acoustic record with his band, the Hurtin’ Albertans, is full of story songs about outlaws, rednecks in rehab and card games. In advance of an 11-city Canadian tour in March that takes him from Vancouver to Toronto, Lund spoke to The Globe and Mail from his home in Lethbridge, where the album was recorded.

I imagine you’d rather be talking about your new album, El Viejo, than coal mining issues.

It’s been a demoralizing experience. I feel a little bad about picking on Mr. Jean, because I’ve met with two energy ministers and two environment ministers over the last two and a half years. And I would say that none of them have a good grasp of the issues. This is a huge story in Alberta. The ministers should be all over it.

What are your politics?

I’m far from a communist. In fact, some people would consider me conservative in some ways. I’m not partisan, and I’m not picking on one party. This is an issue that should matter to anyone who drinks water.

That’s almost everybody.

I’m not against resources. I live in Alberta. We all fly in airplanes and we all drive cars and we all use plastic and we all use diesel fuel to fuel the tractors we use to grow food. So, we’re all complicit in this. But every issue has to be looked at on its own merits. And this coal issue is 11-out-of-10 stupid – and useless and dangerous. It’s going to ruin the water in the middle of a crippling drought.

Do you get blowback from people who think musicians and celebrities shouldn’t be commenting on these kinds of issues?

I’ve run into people in bars who have threatened me. And I take their point – I don’t really like it either when celebrities fly in on jets from Hollywood and scold people. But I’m a sixth-generation Albertan. My family has been here 120 years. More importantly, I drink the water that is being threatened.

Speaking of your ancestry, your great-grandfather was a card sharp in the late 1800s, and there are three gambling songs on the new album. Is card playing literally in your blood?

It’s a pretty big part of my life. I don’t gamble for the sake of gambling. I don’t bet on sports and I don’t bet on dice. Some people play chess or bridge. I like poker.

What are your thoughts on Beyoncé's new country song, Texas Hold ‘Em?

I really like both the new Beyoncé's country songs. My only quibble is that I find the game, Texas hold ‘em, tedious; there are better poker games to sing about. But I get where she’s going with it. I’m really glad to hear acoustic instruments and not layer upon layer of modern country rock guitars and stuff. Nice move. And she looks good in a hat. Some people don’t.

You’ve said that your new song, Girl With the Stratocaster, feels like the Eagles. Are you a fan of that band?

Huge fan. Massive. But with a caveat. When they broke up after 1979′s The Long Run, they said they were never going to get back together. I took them at their word, they did come back, and I think they’ve sucked ever since. But the first six albums make the Eagles one of the five top bands for me.

I don’t think their sixth album, The Long Run, stands up today.

You’re totally wrong – 100 per cent. [Begins singing] I used to hurry a lot, I used to worry a lot; I used to stay out ‘til the break of day. It all stands up. In fact, it’s awesome.

Looking at your recent tour dates in the Southwest United States, you’re playing big rooms. They’re okay with a Canadian cowboy down there?

They can tell that I know what I’m talking about when I’m singing cowboy stuff. The cowboy songs resonate all the way from Alberta to Texas. It’s a common culture. I have more in common with people from Texas than I do with people from Toronto. The Western Americans get it.

They also accepted the late Ian Tyson. You two were close, and the album’s title song is dedicated to him. Can you describe your relationship?

Other people use the word ”mentor.” And when I first met him 20 years ago, it was a kind of hero thing. But then when we got to know each other and tour together, we became friends. He was 80 years old, but it wasn’t hanging out with an old guy. He was a musician, and he was a pretty hip guy.

So, not a father figure?

No, he was not. I already have a father figure. It’s my dad.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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