Published Jun 20, 2019No longer a young man with a banjo trying to pass as old, Old Man (Chris) Luedecke is back with another collection of songs on subjects he finds irresistible — food, love, having to tour to support his family and repair the house — with a newish, middle-aged dad joke bent.
While in some ways a typical Old Man Luedecke album, Easy Money also takes chances: it's a pan-Canadian calypso-tinged record conceived during a songwriting residency in Banff, inspired by Nova Scotian stories, and recorded with a group of Montreal's finest folk musicians at Hotel2Tango with Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire), with appearances by Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas), Fats Kaplin (Jack White, John Prine), and Luedecke's longtime collaborator Tim O'Brien.
Maybe because of the Montreal connection, Luedecke sings in French for a song (a cover of "Le Ciel est Noir," Nana Mouskouri's French version of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall") with Molly Sweeney.
Luedecke's daughters kick the record off with a plea of "Daddy, why do you have to go away?" a ka-ching sound and Luedecke's "Oh sweetheart I gotta make the money." He's got kids now, but is "Easy Money," with its rambling discussion of universal pay, far off from Luedecke's classic "I Quit My Job" off Hinterland? The irony here is that it's Luedecke's success as a songwriter that takes him away from home, not the shackles of working for someone else.
The mild corniness continues with what sounds like intentionally chunky piano on "Dad Jokes," full of shoop-be-doops and spontaneous energy.
Easy Money hits its stride on the third song, "Wake Up Call," which stands up with Luedecke's finest, weaving myth and mundane, and reprising Luedecke's penchant for reversals, all buoyed by brilliant fiddling by Kaplin and guitar by Mike O'Brien (Sin and Swoon).
Easy Money goes beyond variety to be almost a song-by-song study in different sounds from folk, calypso and country music — from the agnostic bluegrass gospel of "I Wanna Go," to the sepia sway of deliciously ridiculous "Sardine Song," to the calypso dance party "Money Pit," which tells the tale of hidden treasure on Nova Scotia's Oak Island and all the subsequent holes that have been dug there, fruitlessly, to the old time feel of "Lonely Country." Appropriately there's also a traditional sea shanty in the bunch ("The Mermaid").
Music might be a study for Old Man Luedecke, but his songs are about human connection, calling out to those you love and yearning for an answer. "Death of Truth," an homage to Luedecke's politically charged dad, speaks to the absence felt when someone you love is gone, while "How Do I Deserve Your Love" and "I Skipped a Stone" are for Luedecke's wife, songs about the miracle of being answered. (True North)