Last Thursday marked the opening of the NAC Presents series in Ottawa, a long run of concerts featuring various Canadian musicians in Ottawa’s most pristine-sounding building. This year’s opener was a well-loved banjo songster known as Old Man Luedecke, who is currently touring his new record, Domestic Eccentric. Playing to a sold-out crowd in the cozy NAC Fourth Stage, Old Man Luedecke delivered exactly what his eager fans were looking for.
Old Man Luedecke is nothing if not reliable. If you choose to go to one of his shows, you can count on the following: You are going to experience a relaxing evening of deft banjo playing, his voice is going to carry you through a number of charming and relatable folk tales, and there will be absolutely top-notch banter between songs. All of these were true at the NAC. He played two sets with a focus on showcasing his new album, with a number of old favourites and a new take on Leonard Cohen’s “Closing Time”. He was joined on stage by Joel Hunt on mandolin/fiddle/guitar and a double-bass player whose name I did not catch. The trio played off each other beautifully and constructed tight vocal harmonies to give Old Man Luedecke’s stories a little extra character.
Personally, I find his banter to be an element of his show that I truly look forward to, and I don’t think I could say that about any other musician. It goes without saying that he uses some of the same stories that accompany certain songs, but he has a way of varying his delivery and including some off-the-cuff comments that give his banter a natural, unrehearsed feeling. He makes a show feel like you are just hanging out in a friend’s living room, and the person playing is just some extremely talented guy with a banjo.
Domestic Eccentric is yet another solid addition to Old Man Luedecke’s catalogue. The album is laid back, even by the bluegrass-leaning folk musician’s standards. This is a set of songs written by and for a family man in his home, and features a number of sentimental ballads. The themes of love, offspring, and home life dominate the record, making it a gentle, comforting ride. I can’t say that it is my favourite of his albums, but there is no significant drop-off in songwriting on Domestric Eccentric, and his tales are as poignant ad true as ever. If you are a fan of his, make sure to grab a copy of Domestric Eccentric. If you are a folk fan who is new to Old Man Luedecke, I would start with Proof of Love.