Old Man Luedecke, L.S.P.U. Hall, St. John’s, Newfoundland
Travel, to be sure, is it’s own reward and so it was that I booked myself a long overdue vacation a while ago with the goal of getting as far away from home while staying Canada as I could. St. John’s, Newfoundland is one of the oldest cities in North America and about 5,031 km from my home in Vancouver as the crow flies.
Fortunate timing means I booked a trip the same week as Old Man Luedecke was playing St. John’s L.S.P.U. Hall. “That’s not the name my parents gave me,” he joked with the audience, “they called me Christopher…” before going onto to explain his theory that Air Canada saves on their data entry budget by shortening first names resulting in his being cut off, somewhat awkwardly, at the “t.”
That joke as it turns out was a good indicator of the kind of witty banter to expect from the stage for the rest of the night. Luedecke’s a funny, engaging performer who weaves his stories nicely in between songs. This may not be surprising given the very personal nature of his most recent release, Domestic Eccentric. The album was recorded in a cabin at his home in Chester, Nova Scotia and contains just over a dozen songs that mostly cover experiences from day to day life.
Luedecke’s set kicked off with the albums’ opener Yodelady, an upbeat banjo driven tribute to meeting his wife (“Yodelady of my dreams” repeats the charming chorus) before launching into a mellower meditation on relationships with Old Highway of Love.
While Luedecke’s reputation as a banjo virtuoso is well established. he seemed to spend almost as much time playing guitar over the next couple of hours as he did on banjo. Songs like the quieter Now We Got a Kitchen saw the musician pick up a six string acoustic while occasionally being accompanied on fiddle instead of mandolin. These moments made for a nice tempo change throughout the night’s two sets.
Kingdom Come from 2012’s Tender is the Night came near the close of the evening’s first set with Luedecke joking that he and the band were “…cutting all the new material with the good old stuff.” If the audience was concerned about too much new material in the set you couldn’t tell from where I was sitting—their response was enthusiastic and rousing throughout the night. This included an enthusiastic response to Real Wet Wood a song which the singer wrote in response to last year’s particularly harsh and long east coast winter, prompting him to suggests that “…it’s not a really good bargaining positioning to be ordering wood mid-winter.” That, friends, is advice you can take to the bank.
A highlight of the second set came when the Luedecke pulled out what he refers to as his “seasonal banjo”—a banjo made out of a pumpkin. The instrument has a noticeably deeper and richer tone than a more conventional instrument, and proved to be an audience favourite.
The two hour, two set show was a sellout and it was easy to see why: with material drawn broadly from the singer-songwriter’s last three releases and a crowd that seemed comfortable enjoying the between song stage banter this was a show that had all the ingredients for success from the first chords. Luedecke’s not to be missed if he visits your neck of the woods. It’s hard to imagine having more fun with a night out.
Old Man Luedecke’s Domestic Eccentric is available now directly from True North Records or iTunes in addition to al the usual places. The St. John’s show marked the end of Luedecke’s Canadian tour dates in support of the record but he’ll be swinging through the eastern United States through November opening for Tim O’Brien. Complete tour dates are on Luedecke’s web site.