"Old Man" Luedecke, |
(Black Hen, 2006)
As unlikely as it may seem in a time and place where buzz tends to follow rock acts like Wintersleep and In-Flight Safety, one of eastern Canada's best releases of 2006 came from a guy with a banjo. Hinterland, the second album from "Old Man" Luedecke (actually around 30, old only by association with the banjo on his knee), is a thrilling collection of songs that sounds like a complete throwback stylistically (consider the stereotypical back porch in the mountains) but still manages to feel fresh and engaging.
Luedecke, a former Torontonian now living in Nova Scotia, spends a fair share of his time criss-crossing Canada, playing festivals and taking in the country along the way. This adventurous approach shows in the first few songs -- especially "I Quit My Job," a paean to the simple notion of following one's passion ("Don't let 'em take the joy that you make," "Take your heart's candle and relight it," etc.). Not a new topic for songwriting, to be sure, but it has rarely sounded so genuine and straightforward.
"Roustabout" keeps up the galloping pace and maintains the theme of casting off inner and outer restrictions in favor of exploration. The rest of the album keeps going back to such traveling vibes on songs like "Lost John" and "Wrong Side of the Country," and it fits well with the jaunty energy of most of the tracks.
Although there's light accompaniment here and there, it's mostly just Luedecke and his banjo. One might expect that would leave the songs feeling a little spare, but -- just as in his live performances -- Luedecke's deft playing gives the songs a full, complete sound. A notable exception to the mostly solitary arrangements is "Salute to the Gold River," a rousing instrumental breakdown with fiddler Laura Federson (who adds more subtle touches to a few of the album's other songs).
A few of the songs found on Hinterland can't help feel but feel like instant standards. The opening track is one of them, and the penultimate "Joy of Cooking" is another. As if a kazoo solo and party-esque group vocals/handclaps on the chorus weren't enough to make it a keeper, the song manages to rhyme "bacon" and "mistaken" with great success.
All in all, it's an easy album to appreciate regardless of how deep you want to look. Upon close examination, the introspective lyrics make this an easy album to get attached to. But if that doesn't get you, the banjo-picking and foot-tapping surely will.
21 June 2008
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