I live in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, in the very heart of bluegrass country and in the shadows of Dr. Ralph Stanley's home. So, be it a blessing or a curse, I get to hear a lot of banjo music. And, to let you in on a little secret, it's often more than I can bear.
So, you'll forgive me if I don't actively seek out banjo records. I've had my fill. Or, so I thought, before My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs, the latest record from Old Man Luedecke fell into my lap. Sure, it's a banjo record, but the banjo player in question, Chris Luedecke, hails from Nova Scotia. In and of itself, that was novelty enough to pique my interest.
Chris Luedecke, as it turns out, is a folk singer/songwriter of national acclaim in Canada. This record fully explains why. It's a collection of songs with a rich, John Hartford-like appeal, with well-developed characters and captivating stories, and Luedecke's old time banjo strummings are reminiscent of such Americana masters as the aforementioned Hartford, Dock Boggs, Dirk Powell, and Mike Seeger.
Highlights from the record include the vigorous opener, "Lass Vicious," the scathing rebuke of corporate greed in "Woe Betide the Doer of the Deed,", and the droning fiddle and woeful, pining love of "Foreign Tongue." Each song is also bolstered by the presence of multi-instrumental genius Tim O'Brien, whose picking and harmonies fully round out Luedecke's own efforts.
Also deserving note is the mention in the record's liner notes of the financial support given to this project by the Canadian government. Given the current economic climate, and the reality that hard times typically lead to a slash in funding for the arts, it is worth trumpeting the fact that our friends to the north are doing their part to make sure musicians like Old Man Luedecke have the opportunity to continue their craft. With that help, it's my hope that My Hands Are On Fire and other Love Songs ends up on the playlist of other jaded banjo vets like me.