It doesn’t get any simpler than a man and his banjo.
Back porch gatherings, kitchen parties, summer nights around the campfire under a canopy of stars, not to mention Pete Seeger singalongs.
When you hear Old Man Luedecke pluck the first few bars on his five-string banjo in the claw-hammer style associated with the hills and hollers of Appalachia, you might think such bucolic thoughts.
But when you listen closely to the lyrics of songs that seem to transport you back to a simpler time, you suddenly hit the brick wall of our contemporary world.
Luedecke isn’t into nostalgia, irrespective of what he sounds like and where his approach to music originates.
He writes love songs that aren’t particularly sweet, political songs with a bite and peans to the vegetable battlefield in refrigerator crispers.
The babyfaced banjo troubadour from the south-shore Nova Scotia village of Chester made an auspicious debut in Waterloo Tuesday night in the Princess Cafe.
The venue was modest because plans were hasty, but the packed house of appreciative banjo fans ensure Luedecke will back, likely at the Princess Original.
With banjo in hand, accompanied by old-time foot stomping, Luedecke made his way through 19 songs over two sets, before ending with a two-song encore, including a request.
All the songs were original with the exception of Roger Miller’s Kansas City Star (Luedecke’s a big Miller fan) and Willie P. Bennett’s Caney Fork River, which he covers on his latest release My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs.
His repertoire was drawn from his Juno-winning Proof of Love and Hinterland as well as his hot-off-the-press offering.
As a performer, Luedecke is warm and low-key, with a gentle, self-deprecating sense of humour.
He also tells a good story, like when he travelled 18 hours by car to see Seeger, only to be rebuffed when he tried to shake the American legend’s hand after a concert.
It was mid-way through his second set before Luedecke gained enough confidence to put down his banjo for the “novelty portion of the show” and pick up his six-string, acoustic guitar.
“I don’t like to bring it on stage too early,” he announced.
He performed Woe Betide the Doer of the Deed and The Palace is Golden on guitar, in addition to a new song.
“I’ve only played it twice in front of people and last night went badly,” he cautioned.
As fate would have it, the walking blues number went exceedingly well.
Luedecke is a pretty good guitarist, but there is magic in the way his voice complements his banjo as he performed Lass Vicious, Machu Picchu, My Loves Comes Stepping Up the Stairs, Mountain Plain, Inchworm, I Quit My Job, At the Airport and Joy of Cooking, among others.
Without drawing attention to himself, Luedecke is an original. Canadian music is lucky to have him within its ranks.
Local singer/songwriter Scott Wicken opened with a charming 30-minute set that, among other things, offered a personal journey of Waterloo—“the old city that lies underneath the new city, the older place I still walk around in.”