Old Man Luedecke wields a fierce banjo in the war of hope and fear
Bela Fleck struck his first chord on six strings. Ditto Earl Scruggs. Tony Trischka's fingers first took flight on the flute. Indeed, the banjo, a machine that, according to Pete Seeger, "surrounds hate and forces it to surrender," has long been an instrument well attuned with fate: You don't find the banjo; rather, it seems to find you. And so it was with Chris "Old Man" Luedecke.
Now Chester, Nova Scotia's benevolent bard of the banjo, he first had designs on a music degree with the clarinet, but in university chose instead to study English. After graduation, he made a beeline for the Yukon to work, whereupon he literally stumbled across a banjo. He was hooked and, within the year, "never looked back."
"It seemed uncluttered, all by itself," recalls Luedecke fondly. "It was this thrilling sound, and just seemed like an outsider's instrument that had room for me."
In turn, the folk world has since made room for Old Man Luedecke. Riding the wave of 2009's Juno Award-winning effort Proof of Love, the soft-spoken songwriter has fast become a festival mainstay both at home and abroad, spinning back-porch tales of hard truths with a soft touch.
Luedecke's latest, My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs, his first with a full band, is a wry, sweet-tempered tonic for the heartsick and hopeful alike, wherein the tunesmith's plight sounds more urgent - this time
around, his customary innocence yields some ground to doubt in the "battlefield of truth."
"The songs I wrote for Proof of Love were very struggle based, my hope for hope over fear," says Luedecke. "The new ones, I'm probably more able to write about things that aren't just about my own immediate fear of crushing failure."