The banjo-pickin’ east coaster has such a gentle and unassuming air about him, both in person and on record, that to hear him so starkly call out war mongers and greedy capitalists in a song is a little bit jarring. Of course, Luedecke’s idea of strong language goes something like, “Woe betide the doer of the deed,” so it’s not like you’ll have to cover the ears of small children or anything.
We haven’t written extensively about Luedecke but I think I’ve sung his praises some. His songs have an easy way about them, a generally cheerful, upbeat frenzy of banjo picking and even-tempered bass. Nothing has really changed on his new album, My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs; he still lives in a world where daughters are sent to fetch water from nearby rivers, men pine wistfully for ladies, rodeo men ride home to their women-folk, and (presumably) people still play the banjo.
But on “Woe Betide The Doer Of The Deed” he’s taking an uncharacteristically real-world, political bent. “The gravy train has thinned out in the rain of Wall Street washing down the drain,” he opens, “and when you made off I hope you got paid off, that your money tastes of blood and your hands are stained.” You might wonder if Luedecke got snowed by the market crash, so fierce is his venom: “May your white collar choke you,” he sings, “while the fires of hell stoke you. May your children ever live in shame.” It’s a moment that stands out simply because of its contrast to the rest of the material presented here. It spares no prisoners, going on to condemn the U.S. war in Iraq as the result of shameful entitlement.
I have to admit, it comes from an unexpected source. Folk music has always proved fertile ground for protest songs but coming from the guy that wrote “At The Airport”? Even if it seems like an odd fit, however, Luedecke does a brilliant job with the song. In an age where Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst performing a song critical of George W. Bush on Leno is as close as we come to protest singers this is a welcome addition to the genre.
The rest of the album is quite good too, by the way. You should check it out.