For me, the banjo isn’t an instrument built for arena anthems. It’s not constructed to craft frantic, supporting textures. It’s a quiet focal point, made for back porches and family foot stomps. It’s made to pair perfectly with the admissions of a charismatic poet. The trusted right hand for an everyman picking through the pain, singing to heavens or the heathens.

The banjo, like those that swing the (claw)hammer with the strength and determination of John Henry, is built on tradition and compassion.

So in a fair world, the millions of people that collectively lose their shit for the Mumford & Sons quiet/loud/quiet/mutherfucking banjo recipe or even the new state of song for the Avetts, would appreciate and cherish the quiet calm of Chris “Old Man” Luedecke.

Luedecke connects with the listener, preferring friendly language to colorful turn of phrase or cliches. Instead of hiding behind forced metaphors, Chris sings to the people in their language. He smiles freely, shares openly and invites us all to share in each punchline.

But without question, Tender is the Night marks a new beginning for Chris. He’s a new dad, on a new label and working with a new band. All of these changes impact his sound; he ventures into bluegrass and pop with the happy addition of fiddle, harmonies, mandolin, and plucky bass to his solo picking, but never with a heavy hand.

These songs are still humble, like the books and settings that influence his stories, but they are also the most sonically adventurous collection we’ve heard from Old Man to date. “Broken Heart Buddy”, “A & W Song” and “I’m Fine (I Am I Am)” all find Old Man sharing the spotlight with his band and the results smoke. On the melodic “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”, Chris and his band loosen the reign and the slight gallop matches the humor

These songs aren’t trying to blow the roof off a stadium. Chris isn’t simply strumming fast enough to make his fingers bleed, but when he hits the choruses, we still sing along. We aren’t just another face in the crowd howling at the top of our lungs. We’re a part of the moment, missing home and pining for the embrace of those we love. That difference is the difference between finding fans and being the spark that lights a fire and changes lives.

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MP3:: Old Man Luedecke - Jonah & Tje Whale