This latest album from Canada’s banjo playing folkster Old Man Luedecke is a deceptively sunny listen. Written mainly at a songwriter residency in the mountain resort of Banff in Alberta, the album, perversely, has a Caribbean feel to it with several songs using calypso rythyms while some of it slides down with the ease of a Pina Colada sipped to the strains of a Jimmy Buffet “yacht rock” classic. With a crack band behind him (including Fats Kaplan and Tim O’Brien), Luedecke pilots a skilful course through his tropical sounds recalling similar ventures from the likes of Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.
Skipping through some light hearted songs such as his ode to sardines and the mock piratical shanty song Money Pit, Luedecke addresses issues such as leaving his family behind as he goes on the road to earn a buck. Indeed, the album opens with his daughters asking him why he has to go away before he launches into the wishful rhapsody, Easy Money. This is followed by Dad Jokes, a delightful ditty on the perils of middle age which is delivered somewhat like Michael Hurley delving into the kiddie rap of 3 Is A magic Number while How Do I Deserve Your Love is a bustling shuffle of banjo and skiffle like rythym section. Lonely County and I Wanna Go meanwhile are more straightforward bluegrass like numbers with a hint of The Carter Family and latter country rock in the grooves.
Dipping into tradition, Luedecke offers us a fine old seafaring ballad on The Mermaid which reeks of Greenwich Village earnestness and then launches into a French lyric version of Dylan’s Hard Rain, called here Le Ciel Est Noir which was a hit for Nana Mouskouri back in the seventies. Towering over the other songs however is one which Luedecke has written following the death of his father. Death Of Truth, in comparison to the rest of the album, is sombre, with a martial drum beat and mournful organ, Luedecke sounding like Leonard Cohen at times as he says farewell to a man who would have been appalled by the current state of affairs and in particular, the spread of fake news.
Easy Money is an album you could play to entertain your guests as you fire up a barbeque but on closer listening it’s a finely crafted and intriguing listen.
Old Man Luedecke is currently touring the UK and Europe, all dates here.