After having seen Old Man Luedecke a couple of times and loving his banjo-driven roots style, it was a bit jarring to be greeted by a poppy guitar hook and electronic percussion in the first few seconds of this four-song disc. A glance at the back cover, though, shows that Luedecke teamed up with Joel Plaskett for this release and suddenly it makes sense. Luedecke wrote the songs, sings them and plays banjo as usual, but Plaskett produced and played a full rock band’s complement of instruments.
That initial shock aside, Luedecke’s earnest and thoughtful songwriting shines through as usual. One sign of a talented writer is the ability to take a well-worn theme and parlay it into a song people actually care to hear. Anyone familiar with Luedecke’s work knows he has that ability in spades, and it takes little time to emerge here. The opener, “Baby, We’d Be Rich,” is definitely the standout of the bunch. Little more than a simple listing out of all the things we do for fun that don’t pay a dime, it’s still a personal take on a theme every folkie picker needs in their repertoire. The disc closes with the “cuss version” of the same song, which adds nothing but a few f-bombs, which I would call quaint if not for knowing that it gets played on radio stations that aren’t cool with such content.
In between those two versions, we find a couple more strong songs but the big takeaway here is the full band sound. Only “Sorry If I Let You Down” keeps the banjo right up front for any extended stretch, but it doesn’t ever feel like Luedecke is having his style stifled. Frankly, it turned out better than I would have guessed, and I don’t know whether to credit Luedecke or Plaskett because they both have fingerprints all over this sucker. Let’s just cross our fingers in the hope they enjoyed this brief collaboration enough to do more work together in the future. (True North, oldmanluedecke.ca) Daniel Emberg