It feels strange asking for “Chris” when telephoning the man everyone knows as Old Man Luedecke. It seems unnatural. He should be some eccentric old codger, perhaps down by the railroad, with a piece of string for a belt, not just some pleasant lad named “Chris.”
Speaking to Luedecke over the phone from his home in Chester, Nova Scotia (a small town about an hour’s drive from Halifax) you can hear his 10-month-old identical twin daughters making their baby noises in the background. Luedecke, sounding relaxed and happy, is taking a break from gigs to spend some time at home before heading west.
At the time when Luedecke picked up the banjo, some 12 years ago, it had the sound of a bygone and obsolete era. Playing it was the kind of hobby that could earn you a nickname like Old Man. Now, thanks to the ebb and flow of culture, traditional music is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and Luedecke has become something of a Canadian treasure.
“It seems like there’s tons more of it out there now than there was,” Luedecke says. ”You see them on the street a lot, a lot of kids travel around with banjos.”
Something about the purity of the sound of the instrument first caught Luedecke’s attention. A lack of pretension in the banjo also appealed.
“I just thought it had a thrilling vibration. It just felt different from other music,” Luedecke says. “I was pretty shy and meek when I started it and still can be, so for me it was just kind of like there wasn’t a lot of ego chatter around the banjo, it didn’t seem to have baggage stretching back through (he pauses) hair rock. It didn’t have any sort of negative attention.”
Now, with two albums to his nickname, an un-toured EP out last fall, and a new album scheduled to come out later this year, Luedecke is hitting the road.
For a change of pace, however, this time out the Old Man won’t be alone. At his side will be mandolin, fiddle and guitar player Joel E. Hunt. They’ve been playing the new songs, which lend well to multiple musicians, but have also been putting a duo spin on solo pieces by Luedecke.
“We’re road testing the new songs,” Luedecke says. “It’s an adjustment because I know where I am, but he doesn’t always … He’s got to be right on top of things to keep up with me because I just kind of flit about.”
For now though, Luedecke is focusing on being a dad. Maybe he’s easing into his nickname as he settles into adulthood, but certainly not the curmudgeonly connotations. He is writing new music constantly, and is striving to balance being happy with writing songs that have impact. Although a children’s album certainly isn’t out of the question, Luedecke says.
“I’m goofing around with songs that I write as I’m trying to put [the twins] to sleep. And they’re not all songs about poop,” Luedecke says with a chuckle. “It’s actually fairly difficult … Right now I actually feel a fair amount of joy … I just have to be very careful that I don’t get into new country territory.” M
Old Man Luedecke
With guest Del Barber
Thursday, June 7
Wood Hall, 8pm Tickets $18 available at Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records and Ticketweb.ca.
By Kyle Wells