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Old Man Luedecke

Domestic Eccentric – 2015 (True North)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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With multiple nominations for Canadian Folk Music Awards in his rucksack, along with a pair of Juno figurines for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo on his mantle, Nova Scotia's Chris Luedecke is among the most prominent acoustic roots musicians Canada boasts.

A line from "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" may serve as this album's thesis: "You can't fake a work of heart." With the subtle, shaded beauty of Jan Vermeer paintings as its core, Old Man Leudecke's sixth album is his strongest to date.

Joined for the third time (second as producer/co-producer) by traditional Americana stalwart Tim O'Brien, and recorded largely in Luedecke's snowbound cabin, "Domestic Eccentric" is primarily a recording of folk and old-time inspired duets, with both musicians playing a range of stringed instruments. Augmentation outside the pair is minimal: bass from Sam Grisman, a bit of singing from neighbor Jennah Barry and Nick Halley.

Built upon Luedecke's series of grounded, old time banjo albums comprising a wide-ranging tapestry of influences and inspiration, since meeting up with O'Brien on the excellent "My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs" six years ago, Luedecke's recordings have become more universally satisfying. With a more melodic banjo approach and increasingly insightful and narrative lyrics, Luedecke has established a comfortable stride over recent releases.

Luedecke's voice fits ideally with O'Brien's as they share a timbre and register that are complementary and frequently near indistinguishable.

A romantic soul going back to his earliest recordings including "I'm A Rich Man," Luedecke has seldom struggled to reveal his inner heart and soul. Given the title, it isn't surprising that Luedecke here reflects largely on issues of familial circumstance. "The Briar and the Rose" takes up the courting tradition of previous centuries with a decidedly modern bent: "I was thorny, young and horny, it was either her or doom." Brilliant discordant notes of reality ("We're saving up for date night so we can have our fight") are balanced by brief notes of light ("Got to enjoy them, they go so fast; the baby days they don't last,"

The call of home from the road ("Low on the Hog" and "Brightest on the Heart") simple pleasures and chores ("Wait A While" and "Real Wet Wood") and challenges achieved ("Chester Boat Song") provide perspective while "Hate What I Say" ("Supposed to fix a broken sink - I got a text, I went out drinking; Then I heard Juice Newton singing, Baby's ringtone surely ringing - I cleared my throat about to say, 'I was gonna be home yesterday') demonstrates that maturity is seldom linear.

With "Domestic Eccentric," Old Man Leudecke has crafted a generous and invigorating collection of songs rooted in the minutiae and gentle joys of life and family. That the album was recorded in intimate circumstances with trusted collaborators adds to the energetic sparkle of the songs.