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Old Man Luedecke is on Easy Money street with new album, shows ahead

Old Man Luedecke has a new album called Easy Money, which he calls his "most Maritime yet." - Mat Dunlap
Old Man Luedecke has a new album called Easy Money, which he calls his "most Maritime yet." - Mat Dunlap

There’s something soothing about spending a Monday morning in the breakfast nook of Old Man Luedecke’s home outside of Chester, sipping a homemade cappuccino and gazing around the house at the artifacts connected to his music. 

On one wall, there’s a print of the lustrous Vermeer painting Girl With a Pearl Earring, which he immortalized in a song of the same name on his Domestic Eccentric album, kitty corner to another wall displaying the ceramic diorama made by his wife Teresa for the cover of his Live at the Chester Playhouse CD.

Nowhere to be seen is the bright pink couch featured in the cover art and title track video for the banjo-playing balladeer’s new record Easy Money, captured on the palm tree-lined streets of Los Angeles by a former Haligonian, visual artist Mat Dunlap.

It would have been a nice souvenir of the trip to California, but probably a little pricey to ship back to Nova Scotia.

“We found the pink couch about an hour after I got to Los Angeles,” says Luedecke, who was met by Dunlap at LAX before the pair made a beeline to Echo Park to get down to work finding the perfect images for the cover and video.

“There was a palm-lined street that wasn’t too busy, and it was garbage night, so this pink couch was just sitting there and we dragged it into the centre of street and we got our shots.”

'Most maritime album"

Luedecke calls Easy Money  his “most maritime album” because of the incorporation of calypso sounds — a staple of 1950s folk music — into many of the songs, alongside the sea shanty

The Mermaid, and some trans-Atlantic afrobeat on How Do I Deserve Your Love. 

He recalled the old album covers by Toronto-based calypso band the Merrymen, whose LPs are staples of thrift shops and yard sales, and with his old friend Dunlap now based in L.A., it was a perfect opportunity to go for something bright and lively to match the new songs.

“On all their covers they’re wearing flouffy-armed shirts, standing in front of palm trees on a beach in the Caribbean,” says Luedecke, who probably won’t wear a puffy shirt at his shows with his new four-piece band at St. Matthew’s Church in Halifax on Wednesday, Berwick’s Union Street Cafe on Friday or the Marc Lescarbot Theatre in Church Point on Saturday.

“Because I’d made this calypso-flavoured record, I wanted to make sure there were palm trees on the cover, so it ends up looking like a ’70s L.A. kind of record, sitting on this coral coloured couch wearing a green hat. But I think it looks pretty cool.”

Mix of styles

The title track is already getting attention from the eye-catching video, and the singer considers Easy Money a follow-up to the very popular The Early Days from Domestic Eccentric, continuing the observaton of how kids grow up so fast, and having to balance work life and family life.

“Easy Money is about wishing you could spend all day watching your kids play, and it’s a very simple narrative, and being in L.A. there is no end of signs of other people’s apparently easy money,” he says, alluding to the commando style he and Dunlap undertook to make the promo video.

“There’s a shot in the video of me sitting below the Beverly Hills sign at the top of Rodeo Drive. It was kind of nerve-wracking for me, basically busking with a banjo with a camera in front of me, but in that city nobody gives you any trouble.”

The calypso theme is just one of a mix of styles that Luedecke ties together with his banjo, guitar and personable blend of wit and poignancy. He adds to his repertoire of food ditties with Sardine Song’s tribute to everyone’s favourite snack in a can, and digs up local lore on the singalong Money Pit, about the world-famous Oak Island treasure.

“It’s something to be celebrated,” he says, adding that the current lack of a TV means he hasn’t been catching up on the South Shore-shot reality show about it. “It’s funny, if we lived in the States, my driveway would be called Oak Island something, they’d find a way to sell or promote all the details of it. So far, it’s nicely under-exploited.

“It’s still a great story, you should see the exhibit in the Chester train station, it’s been there about 20 years. ... I enjoy the air of mystery to the whole place. But I usually introduce the song by saying they’re probably not going to find anything. And you hope they don’t, because you don’t want them to solve the mystery.”

After recording three records with producer/musician Tim O’Brien in both Nashville and his hand-built home studio, Luedecke took a different tack with Easy Money, starting with writing and recording sessions at the Banff Centre, followed by a trip to Montreal’s Hotel 2 Tango where producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Basia Bulat) and guests like Bahamas’ Afie Jurvanen helped put the final polish on a record the musician considers his biggest production to date.

In death's shadow

But it’s not all veneer and shiny surfaces, there are songs written in the wake of the death of Leonard Cohen (I Wanna Go) and Luedecke’s father (The Death of Truth) that bring things down to Earth.

The latter song is one of his very best, inspired by the many conversations and phone chats he had with his dad over the years, as they entered a period of friendship that developed later in life; growing closer together in terms of politics and expressing differing points of view without getting heated about it.

“He just knew the fix was in,” Luedecke says of his father, who went into hospital around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration. “He spent a lot of time reading the New York Times and just hating big pharma, hating the second Bush administration, he was terribly disillusioned by Obama, and he just couldn’t have handled Trump, although he knew what was coming.

“I just always liked talking to him, because he knew what was going on. I didn’t necessarily agree with him, but as you get older you sort of forgive your parents a little more, or you realize that some of the stuff you think is their fault is actually your own fault. You grow past being able to blame them for things.”

If you go: Tickets for Old Man Luedecke at St. Matthew's Church are $29.99 in advance, $34.99 day-of-show, available at sonicconcerts.com and the etixnow kiosks at the Halifax Forum, Music Nova Scotia office and Coffee Matters outlets.

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