The Canadian folk artist Old Man Luedecke released his sixth album Easy Money on June 7th. Luedecke is a previous winner of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Juno awards and I suspect might get one or more nominations from this album. He has written ten of the twelve tracks. The overwhelming sense is of an insightful songwriter who wears his profundity lightly and who is all the more acute because of it.
Luedecke has a singing voice which has a laugh not far from the surface in its intonation. Musically, the album has a strong sense of banjo and calypso; how can I put this – neither of these are creators of a mood of Wagnerian seriousness. The combined effect of all this is to create an album which is both delightfully fun and delightfully biting.
The second track, for example, has a jaunty tune and is called ‘Dad Jokes’ (which are “the death knell of the vestiges of cool”). It has a refrain “Ain’t it hard when all you want is more”. So far so amusing. But the verse in the middle is from a serious fool of a songwriter, able – like an Elizabethan jester – to be more incisive because of the musical style, jauntily delivering verses such as:
“When I fell for you my love and wooed and won your hand
I gained the key for us to be in the promised land
But then came renovations and we had to pick a floor
Ain’t it hard when all you want is more”
Move over Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright III.
Most songs are in this kind of territory, but there is also room for something totally light in ‘Sardine Song’ – a calypso influenced paean to sardines (yes, really) and including homage to toast, tomato, mustard sauce etc.
The most powerful song, though, is ‘Death Of Truth’. It is at the other end of Luedecke’s spectrum, it opens with a Cohen-intonation (the song was influenced in part by Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’) and is quite simply serious. It’s a personal song about the passing of Luedecke’s father, who died a week before the inauguration of the current US administration; it’s a political song about the death of truth in our politics. Luedecke interweaves the two threads in a track which is only twenty lines long and, while being very personal about the loss of his father, is as good a critique of current politics as I’ve heard in the past year or so. With its thoughtful tune and down-played arrangement, I think this all combines into a great song.
In addition to his own songs, the album is completed by ‘Le Ciel Est Noir’ (the French version of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and the traditional song ‘The Mermaid’.
The Vancouver Folk Festival has described Luedecke as “a musical singularity to be savoured and shared”. He is on tour in the UK throughout August, predominantly at Festivals but also at Cecil Sharp House.
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‘The Death Of Truth’ – official video: