OLD MAN LUEDECKE with GREY KINGDOM at Glenn Gould Studio (250 Front West), tonight (Thursday, November 22), 8 pm. $29.50. RTH. See listing.
Old Man Luedecke, aka Chris Luedecke, is evading a traffic cop in Washington, DC, when I reach him to discuss his fifth album, Tender Is The Night, newly out on True North Records. Thankfully, the cop doesn't seem particularly intent on giving the songwriter/banjo player a ticket.
Luedecke is in the American capital as part of a string of dates supporting veteran country and bluegrass player Tim O'Brien, who produced the album and also played on Luedecke's last one. For the January recording sessions, Luedecke travelled from his home in Chester, Nova Scotia, to John Prine's Butcher Shoppe studio in Nashville.
But he says he went south more out of a desire to work with O'Brien than to make a "Nashville" album.
"Calling it a Nashville record is kind of weird," Luedecke says, "because I think it sounds like an Old Man Luedecke record. It's just got some bluegrass musicians on it."
Besides O'Brien, the musicians included bassist Mike Bub and percussionist Kenny Malone.
"They're not really typical of the Nashville sound," he says. "But there's maybe more of an American folk sound than I've had on other records."
The two-time Juno Award winner is best known as a banjo player. He addresses the novelty aspect of that branding in the opening lines of the album's first song, Kingdom Come, when he sings, "I rode a long way on a one-trick pony."
Lately, Luedecke has been devoting himself to daily guitar practice, and a couple of songs (including the highly hummable A&W Song and Song For Ian Tyson) are guitar-based. But banjo remains integral to his songwriting process.
"It is a miraculous place for me for language," he says. "It just seems to unlock what I need to say in a metrical way or a semi-metrical way, depending on the lengths of the lines."
Luedecke has a tendency to sing about the hard times he's faced in otherwise uplifting songs, but he says it's actually the other way around.
"It's a testament to the songs that they give the impression that I'm happy," he says, laughing, "because in truth I don't feel like a Pollyanna or anything. I'm just trying to win in my songwriting at least. Trying to win over the darkness."