You’ve seen the Deliverance-related bumper stickers and memes: Paddle faster…I hear banjo music.
But you needn’t overwork your oars or grind your Grumman (that’s a canoe, people) downstream when it comes to Old Man Luedecke.
A two-time Juno Award recipient (2009’s Proof of Love) and East Coast Music Awards winner (2012’s Tender Is the Night), Chris “Old Man” Luedecke has been picking at our heartstrings for over a decade now, beguiling listeners with mirthful measures and humorous lyrics that are just about as Americana as you can get without actually hailing from the homeland of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan.
Luedecke’s Canadian, see. And he’s a young man—not old—even if his verses ring with the experience and insight of a wizened sage.
Now, with his sixth full-length effort, Domestic Eccentric, Luedecke turns his pen (and plectrum) inward, busting out fourteen fun tracks that chronicle (and celebrate) life at home as a happily-married, thirtysomething father to three tykes whom he realizes are growing up way too fast.
Recording with once again with Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien (it’s their third collaboration), Luedecke is alternately comedic, nostalgic, and paternal as he reflects on current affairs at his Nova Scotia domicile from an adjacent studio cabin he built himself to minimize his time away from the family.
Heck, this tough hombre even carved out a road to lug the latest musical equipment up to his snowy fortress of musical solitude to get the job done.
His efforts paid off: Domestic is a joyful affair that delights in life’s simple pleasures (coffee and beans over a campfire, breakfast, and boat-making) and forgettable foibles (broken sinks) whilst simultaneously assessing the romantic bonds that make us human. Luedecke’s and O’Brien’s banjos, mandolins, and guitars are spritely, yielding fleet-fingered melodies that take up long-term residence in the ear and whose rhythms prompt the feet to tapping. Nick Halley’s minimalist percussion sublime, and bassist Samson Grisman (Lee Ann Woman, Sarah Jarosz) flies in some lean lines from Nashville.
Like some renegade pupil of Davy Crockett and Robert Frost, Luedecke’s a salt-of-the-earth poet gifted with memorable, phrase-turning panache. On “Hate What I Say” he offers his spouse a preemptive apology for quitting his chores to go drinking with the boys (and for buying a new guitar for a month-long bluegrass fest which, naturally, he’ll host at their place). On “Real Wet Wood” he likens his lover to damp logs and kindling that “hiss and spit”—wasting matches and smoldering newspapers—but never sparking like they should.
The biblical references are back, too: He references Noah’s ark on “Wait a While” (last time out he covered Jonah and the whale) and compares his tour stints with Christ’s 40-night desert exile.
Album prologue “Yodelady” is both a play on words and valentine to Luedecke’s wife:
“Yodelady…yodelady of my dreams,” he croons before hitting some Alpine-ready high notes that’d make German volksmusik star Heino blush.
Preview “Yodelady” on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/idla/old-man-luedecke-yodelady
On “Girl in the Pearl Earring” Luedecke’s wife reminds him of the subject of the similarly-named painting by 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (You can’t fake a work of art). Vocalist Jennah Barry pitches in on “Briar and The Rose,” lending mesmeric pipes to OML’s paean to his personal Delia Rose.
“I was thorny, young and horny,” recalls Luedecke. “I pursued her…then I wooed her.”
Lead-off single “The Early Days” finds the banjo phenom contemplating the fast pace of modern life while trapped with his Goldfish-munching young’ins in the checkout line at a bustling superstore. Luedecke speaks for a lot of parents when he bemoans his hectic schedule (Too tired to eat in, but it’s a total crapshoot eating out), but a fellow customer gives the hurried husband some good advice:
“Hold on,” cautions an elderly onlooker. “It goes so fast.”
“Now We Got a Kitchen” presents the opposite side of the coin, with proud papa Luedecke gushing over his home life (We got it all)…even on days when it seems “Happy Ever After” is not the easy part.
The vocal harmonies woven by Luedecke and O’Brien are watertight, effortless—and often spine-tingling. The mix (by John D Southern Adams) pans OML on the left and O’Brien to the right, which sets up their ebullient voices to mingle in the middle on “Early Days” and “Year of The Dragon.” It’s great stuff—and not unlike Simon & Garfunkel or the Everlys, albeit funneled through a folk filter and sprinkled with a little Hee-Haw. When it comes down to it, Luedecke is more cowboy than cosmopolitan, a blue-collar storyteller who’s still got Heaven in his throat and the Devil in his fingers.
This is one musical fox you need to let in your musical hen house, pronto.
Domestic Eccentric on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/pgrlzux