TENDER IS THE NIGHT
Old Man Luedecke
True North Records
First, Old Man Luedecke is not elderly—he’s a rather youngish, hirsute native Canadian singer-songwriter with multiple JUNO awards to his credit over the course of a now-five-album career. With this Tim O’Brien-produced gem, Luedecke should gain solid footing in the U.S. folk scene. His warm, traditional sound is equal parts catchy, literate songwriting; a warm, personable voice; and a penchant for spare, earthy arrangements fueled by his own assured banjo picking and O’Brien’s sensitive fiddling (with bassist Mike Bub and percussionist Kenny Malone providing the solid, unobtrusive bottom). Hard not to notice that the old man has copped his album title from F. Scott Fitzgerald–Luedecke’s fourth album named after F. Scott’s fourth novel, see–and indeed, there is a literary bent to his writing but he tends to play with it, deploying words and images not in a Fitzgeraldian way but more in keeping with a wry, John Prine-skewed view of life. Which gives us, in “Kingdom Come,” “I believe in the small and the free/as I gaze from the heights that are wuthering.” Before you roll your eyes at that lyric, be advised it’s tongue in cheek, part of the fun Luedecke has with language and plot.
Old Man Luedecke, ‘Tender Is the Night,’ the title track of his new album, produced by Tim O’Brien
EPK for Old Man Luedecke’s Tender Is the Night album
Old Man Luedecke gives a new spin to the tale of ‘Jonah & the Whale,’ from his new album, Tender Is the Night
Producer O’Brien simply leaves all this alone in fashioning an intimate, fireside ambience. You’ll hear some tension in songs such as “I’m Fine (I Am, I Am),” a brisk shuffle concealing the singer’s anxiety in toe-tapping humor, and “Broken Hearted Buddy,” with romantic despair encased in bouncy, fiddle-fired rhythms and a jaunty mountain spirit. On the other hand, “Jonah & The Whale,” a romp featuring O’Brien’s tasty mandolin solo, introduces an intriguing allegorical spin on the Bible tale, whereas the briskly fingerpicked “Long Suffering Jesus” humorously imagines the Son of God’s weary perspective on his flock’s follies. A song titled “Tender Is the Night” exists as well. It’s a gentle, slightly wistful country-ish ballad, rich in Luedecke’s atmospheric banjo and exuding the warmth of a weary traveler’s homecoming to things and people that matter. No Fitzgeraldian psychodramas, or, for that matter, any of the rock ‘n’ roll heat and emotional punch of Jackson Browne’s “Tender Is the Night,” just the soulful outpourings and sunny anticipation of a man grateful for that which persists in life. Brimming with humanity, humor, fine music and memorable, sensitive poetry, Tender Is the Night is one of those sleeper albums that no one saw coming but lingers in memory until you have to cue it up again. Then you hear something new you hadn’t heard before, and you cue it up again. And so it goes. The Old Man is a sly dog indeed.