Friday, March 14, 2008
Such a simple concept, but it really sums up the reason why listening to Chris "Old Man" Luedecke's new record is so rewarding. With the help of Steve Dawson, Chris has created a record that is like an invitation to Maritime kitchen party or a back porch jam session; a collection of songs that you find yourself singing and stomping along to. Sure it helps that Chris plays the banjo, an instrument that is as friendly and familiar as a stereotypical small town stranger, but it's the friends that help him fill out his sound that really help you feel like a part of this record.
Whether it is a beautiful fiddle, acoustic bass, a pump organ or a choral backing, you can't help but picture every player smiling as the songs were recorded live off the floor, and that makes the record almost weightless. Instead of dragging you down into your own loneliness, these songs play like conversations between friends. Sure, some might be more serious, but that is the comfort you feel with your friends.
You can't help but translate those friendships into your own. A perfect example are the two songs Chris sings with Rose Cousins. On Ain't Going My Way the band combines fiddle and banjo, but it's John Reischman understated, but vital mandolin riff and Rose Cousin's harmonies that give the song it's character. You start to see Chris and Rose sharing a mic, smiling as they belt out the song, but on Little Birds, Rose's voice is more a sympathetic shoulder for Chris to lean on. They show of the intimate support and lightened heart we crave from out closest friends.
The thing I really like is how Chris made this more than a "banjo record." He could have easily played 11 finger picked tracks and told anyone who wasn't into it to pluck off. Instead, with Steve's help, he's managed to change styles and tempos. He's strong enough to stand alone (Just Like a River), shift into traditional numbers (Lulu My Darling), create a bar room/back porch jam session with a surprising density (The Drawing Near), and even drift into a 50's radio slow dance number (Sad as a Forest). It's not very often you picture a banjo picker merging seamlessly with a soulful, gospel choir but the collaboration with the Sojouners is one of the many highlights on Proof of Love.
[MP3]:: Proof of Love