published: 11 /
True North Records
Witty and country folk/pop on fifth album from award-winning Nova Scotia-based artist, Old Man Luedecke
It may be thought that Canada’s contribution to the world of country music begins and ends with 90's superstar Shania Twain. But, as with country music from anywhere in the world, go past the chart music and you find out where the really good, interesting music has been hiding.
Old Man Luedecke isn’t in fact particularly old but he’s already the holder of a Juno award, the ultimate recognition from Canada’s music industry. It’s immediately apparent, on listening to ‘Tender is the Night’, why he won.
Although OML’s win was in the category of ‘best traditional folk’ album, it’s really only the instrumentation that requires that classification. Luedecke’s songwriting is pop in the very best sense – the album’s opening track ‘Kingdom Come’ is a superb, jaunty look at life and its quirks. The heavy use of banjo puts it into the bluegrass bracket, but don’t be fooled into thinking this album is going to be all square dancing and lumberjack shirts. Luedecke’s clever lyrics (“I was crying in the wilderness/It’s a pretty good place to build a home, I guess”, or “Our first date, I was pretty nervous/eating ice cream, quotin’ Robert Service”) and his knack for a catchy melody make his songs rise a step above. The Old Man (whose given name is Chris) puts his voice centre-stage, and it does the songs a great service – he doesn’t sound particularly old, but his voice does have that slight growl and the weariness that seems to be a pre-requisite of singers in this genre.
It’s even beautifully packaged, with a glossy cover that has the album’s title (and tracklisting, on the back) printed in a gold foil on top of a rather nice old-timey design.
Clearly Luedecke sees himself as a country artist, and that’s no bad thing. The album was recorded in Nashville, and the music that permeates the streets of that sunny city is imprinted into the record’s grooves (although Luedecke’s Canadian-ness is still there – in a reference ‘A&W Song’to Scotia Bank, for instance: not a bank whose branches you’re likely to find south of the Mason-Dixon line). ‘Jonah & the Whale’, with its biblical allegories, is among the more ‘country’ tracks, along with the wry, tender ‘Broken Heart Buddy’ which might have been a Hank Williams song (“You took my goose and cooked it/And then you overlooked it”).
Where the album falls down slightly is the tunes. The playing is first-rate throughout, and the lyrics fascinating, but while the melodies are catchy, they don’t have a lot of staying power, and with a few exceptions (the touching title track, about how hard it is to be away from home, and ‘Can’t Count Tears’) the songs’ tunes don’t stand up to their lyrics, or to the Old Man’s singing.
Despite that, 'Tender is the Night' is well worth hearing: not just for folk and bluegrass fans but for everyone who likes their songs witty, melodic and entertaining.
Jonah & The Whale
Tortoise And The Hare
Tender Is The Night
Broken Heart Buddy
Little Stream of Whiskey
I'm Fine (I am, I am)
Song for Ian Tyson
This May Hurt A Bit
Can't Count Tears
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Long Suffering Jesus