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Record review: Old Man Luedecke – Tender Is The Night (2013, LP)

This fifth album from Chris ‘Old Man’ Luedecke is rooted firmly in the traditional folk and country genres the Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player has made his trademark. Recorded in four days in Nashville, Tender Is The Night sees Luedecke packing literary references ranging from Herman Melville to F. Scott Fitzgerald and the New Testament into thirteen songs, while switching moods between jauntily upbeat (as on ‘Tortoise and the Hare’) and the melancholia of the title track. Grammy-winner Tim O’Brien not only produces but adds tasteful mandolin and violin touches throughout, allowing Luedecke to explore new musical and lyrical territory. “I’m angry and bathed in fire,” he sings on ‘Long Suffering Jesus’, but when harsh words are accompanied with such playful banjo lines it’s hard to react to these songs with anything but a tapping foot and a smile. Forget Mumford; this is banjo music the way it should be.

Interview: Old Man Luedecke

old man lued

At 37, Chris ‘Old Man’ Luedecke isn’t exactly old. He is, however, a Juno Award-winning singer, songwriter and banjo player from Nova Scotia who will tour Australia throughout November in support of Jordie Lane.

At what age did you start playing music, and how did you settle on the banjo as your instrument of choice?

Pretty early. My parents had me in a program called Kinder Musik in Toronto at four or so. We played glockenspiels and sang nursery rhymes. I played and loved the clarinet and piano through grade school and high school. I gave up music, I thought, when I did a lit degree but I was playing banjo and writing songs two months after graduation. I don’t remember singing until I met my wife. We had an early date where we drove a borrowed ’60s Chevy pick-up on the Top Of The World highway to Alaska from Dawson City one night and I sang her every song I knew.

What can Australian fans expect from an Old Man Luedecke show in 2013?

Great stories and tunes. Thumping foot and rhythm with sparkling banjo, catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics.

Recording your new album Tender Is The Night took just four days in Nashville. How intentional was that?

I’ve always worked pretty quickly in the studio because I tend to arrive with finished songs that I can already play myself. Nashville wasn’t much different, but the cats were really heavy and I was able to get comfortable quickly. I really like the live sound of my records. They’re not over-thought, they just sound like people making music with my tunes.

Your songs reveal your fondness for language and literature. What literary influences went into this album?

Well, off the top of my head there’s Melville, Tom Paine, the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, John Prine, Robert Service, Walt Whitman, Ginsberg…