Old Man Luedecke “She Told Me Where To Go”

Outside Music, 2024

Two-time Juno Award recipient’s first album in five years delivers a distinct departure from signature sound.

artwork for Old Man Luedecke album "She Told Me Where To Go"After having temporarily given up the music business for a life on the ocean waves, working as a deckhand aboard a scallop boat just off the coast of Nova Scotia, Chris Luedecke, better known to most as Old Man Luedecke, has returned with his first album in five years. Produced by close friend and fellow Juno Award winner Alfie Jurvanen (a.k.a. Bahamas), ‘She Told Me Where To Go’, delivers a distinct departure from Luedecke’s signature sound of banjo-driven old-time Appalachian music, choosing this time to use a wider range of instruments to try and help open up a newfound freedom in his writing with the songs he’d been working on whilst out at sea.

The album opens strongly with the title track, a powerful almost feral country blues, stuffed full of electric guitars and a heavy backbeat that conjures up memories of R.L. Burnside and would sit comfortably on any of the Black Keys albums from a decade ago, complete with a doom-ladened lyrical message that renders it almost unrecognisable from Luedecke’s previous work. However, it is also very different from everything else on this album, as the pace and the mood quickly shift with track two, ‘Guy Fieri’, treading a gentler path, acoustic guitars strummed to a simple melody supporting a narrative of cheerful optimism, while the following track ‘Going On The Mountain’, continuing in a similar vein.

Considering the bulk of the songs for this album were conceived out at sea, only ‘The Quiet Good’, appears to draw any inspiration from those surroundings, with its reference here to the Humpback Whale, while track five ‘The Raven And The Dove’, throws a musical curve ball, built around a repetitive percussive beat that evolves into a funky groove with hand claps. ‘Shine On Love’, has some fine slide guitar and features Reeney Smith on backing vocals helping to create a soulful dreamy vibe, and while lyrically ‘My Status Is The Baddest’, has more substance with its tongue-in-cheek take on the joys of parenting it lacks the barbed wit of fellow countryman Loudon Wainwright III to really hit home. ‘Dreadful Wind And Rain’, stands out as one of the albums highlights with some great country guitar playing that drives the song along with an infectious melody and narrative about journeys end and reconciliation, where as towards the end of the album ‘Our Moment In The Sage’, is an intriguing number with modern folk sensibilities drawing comparison to Sam Lee, but not for the first time on this record it feels out of sync with the majority of tracks.

‘She Told Me Where To Go’ is on the whole a confusing, occasionally frustrating album that undoubtedly has its moments. The musicianship is excellent throughout, so the issue here is not the lack of banjo or the departure from a more familiar sound, but rather one that could be attached to much of Old Man Luedecke’s previous releases. To these ears the melodies and much of the lyrical narrative are too simplistic, too safe, and consequently a little bland, with its pop sensibilities failing to hold the attention over repeated listens. Where it dares to be brave, as on the title track, there is a plenty to like, and a few more of that ilk would certainly have helped break up some of the rather lightweight and at times whimsical material. Disappointingly, for large parts of this album ‘She Told Me Where To Go’, appears happy travelling down the middle of the road, careful not to offend but ultimately lacking any real identity, settling instead for being easy listening.


About Graeme Tait 125 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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