The newest release of Chester, Nova Scotia's Old Man Luedecke is both charming and earnest; an album best listened to while making pancakes in the kitchen with grandma. In a full band setting, My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs masterfully elaborates upon Old Man Luedecke's already well-established songwriting style and once again proves to us that Bluegrass and Folk are alive and prospering, albeit in a more contemporary and accessible fashion.
The cover of the album aptly features Old Man Luedecke flying toward the sun with a makeshift pair of wings and a banjo bravely slung over his back. The image of Icarus is quite fitting as many of the songs are about optimistically pursuing something greater, a sentiment which is best described in the song Rear Guard where the lyrics are so honestly presented, you want to sing them out at the top of your lungs ( “Go your own way, on the battlefield of truth/ Hold your burning hands up, the emblems of eternal youth... ”).
The album explores various feelings from hopeful restlessness at the beginning, to optimistic loneliness, and then settling in to a lovingly content conclusion. The textures range from the simple guitar and banjo on Inchworm to the expansive tonal palette of The Palace Is Golden which even features an electric guitar with tremolo in the fashion of Tom Waits.
Old Man Luedecke's sound very much resembles that of Bascom Lunsford or Pete Seeger. Whilst many of his peers are concerned with creating what they consider to be completely original, it's refreshing to see someone tread on a well-worn road. With that said, Old Man Luedecke certainly isn't unoriginal, in fact by choosing folk as his vehicle of expression, I believe he has managed to be completely true to himself and it is quite apparent in the delivery. What makes Old Man Luedecke stand apart from his predecessors - and by extension his contemporaries - can be found in his lyrics; he sings about the present day rather than forcing out content of a bygone era.
With a stellar backing band and an incredible catalogue of well-written songs (and a cover of Canadian legend Willie P. Bennett’s Caney Fork River), it's incredible that Old Man Luedecke can still maintain his humble and modest character and it's this character that is needed to fully-deliver his songs; the purity in his deliverance is what truly makes the album.
This album is truly one of the best to come out of the Maritimes in years and it wouldn't surprise me to see another Juno nod in Old Man Luedecke's direction in the coming year. A perfect blend of the contemporary and the antiquated, My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs is an album that with any luck will stand the test of time.