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Dropping Hinterland 

Using his brand new sophomore album Hinterland, Halifax banjo phenom Old Man Luedecke charms and awes Jason Burns.

Old Man Luedecke is a banjo-hammering songster who looks like Santa Claus might have in his late 20s. He’s very in touch with his roots. He just released his new record, Hinterland, and he’s gracing us with a CD release show at Ginger’s on Saturday, March 4. 

“The new record has been in stores for about a month. I’m really happy with it,” says Luedecke. “It’s like it’s the record that I’ve always wanted to make and so it sort of feels like it’s a long time overdue.” 

Hinterland is a beautiful blend of traditional play-your-heart-out and stomp-your-foot recording mixed with tasteful engineering. Recorded in Vancouver and Halifax, it draws inspiration from everywhere in between and began with some hope, one of those old mini-buses and a 6,300 kilometre journey. 

“The whole British Columbia thing was really a big fuck-up on our part, actually,” exclaims Luedecke with a grin. “It was a mistake that ended up getting me the record—or at least getting me interested in starting the record and I suppose finishing it too.

“We bought one of those small schoolbuses a year ago in Ontario and it worked really well so we drove it around for a bit and then we camperized it and went on tour. Then it just broke down in BC. My wife Taressa’s family lives in a suburb of Vancouver so that’s where we ended up,” says Luedecke. “That’s when I met up with my label, Black Hen Music.”

Black Hen Music is a Vancouver-based label that features an impressive roster of award-winning and critically acclaimed acoustic roots and jazz artists, including Geoff Berner, Andrew Downing, Jenny Whiteley, and Zubot and Dawson.

“I just started playing lots of shows in Vancouver city and kept pretty busy with music and writing,” says Luedecke, “then Steve Dawson, who’s head of the record label, was interested so he asked me if he could record me.”

One might wonder how challenging it was to record an album in studios set so far apart.

“I recorded the bulk of it much like the first one. The first one”—2003’s Mole in the Ground—“was recorded in a three-hour session, just live banjo and my voice,” he says. “For this one, the basics were done the same way, then I came to Halifax and added overdubs.

“Steve Dawson plays a Weissenborn guitar,” adds Luedecke, “which is really cool.”

Weissenborn guitars are slide guitars that are known to sing in an organic voice expressive of the depth of Ludecke’s earthy music.

The new record features Halifax’s fiddle princess Laura Federson as well as a crew of Halifax’s best vocalists, including Ruth Minnikin. Luedecke says he enjoyed adding the finishing touches. “It was great doing the overdubs. I did a bunch of harmonies with myself and I have a kazoo solo in a song,” says Luedecke. “But once I realized how carried away I might get I just stopped. I really do aspire to simple music.”

Old Man Luedecke’s gentle and refreshing view on life is endearing. He has the ability to capture a moment in a song and doesn’t try to hide from the obvious. Having the ability to write in a very dark place and come out of it with something that is simple and laughable is what sets him apart.

Intellectually, in many respects, it seems as though Luedecke wanders through the same wilderness that the old roots musicians did. Maybe that’s how he has come to understand a few very important things about music: that no matter how many times they’ve been done, love songs are still good; that less is often more; and that for an artist who has a lot of heart, it’s a sink-or-swim world.

“I live in Chester in a really beautiful apartment above a garage where I work well. I live modestly enough that I can support my lifestyle by just playing the banjo. That’s pretty amazing to me, really,” he says.

On second thought, maybe a little bit more money wouldn’t go amiss.

“Like I said, I can support my lifestyle, but someday I’d love to buy a brand-new banjo.”

Old Man Luedecke CD release, March 4 at Ginger’s Tavern, 1662 Barrington, 10pm, 422-4954

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