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OLD MAN LUEDECKE (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

What’s the difference between a banjo and an anchor? You tie a rope around an anchor before you throw it overboard.

What’s the difference between a banjo and a trampoline? You take your boots off before you jump on a trampoline.

What’s the difference between a banjo and an onion? Nobody cries when you cut up a banjo.

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Old Man Luedecke hears his share of banjo jokes. He’s been playing one for most of his life. Hell, he feeds a family of five with the proceeds from picking a banjo at venues around his native Nova Scotia, Canada, and beyond.

“The reason there are so many banjo jokes is because people don’t really play it with dynamics,” Luedecke said. “If you control the volume and the sensitivity with which you play, you can make the banjo sound as pretty as anything.”

He doesn’t tell banjo jokes himself, not because he dislikes them, but because he has trouble remembering jokes.

OLD MAN LUEDECKE AND TIM O’BRIEN (photo courtesy of Luedecke’s web site)

Luedecke is a funny guy, though, weaving humor into his songs and stage patter. He’s not a recognizable name in the Southwest United States yet, but Luedecke is a popular draw along the East Coast. And despite his moniker, he’s not an old man – Leudecke is a young 39. He got the nickname in his early 20s for playing an instrument most associated with old guys like Grandpa Jones and Stringbean Akeman.

Luedecke’s upcoming tour with Tim O’Brien might just boost his visibility down here. O’Brien is a talented multi-instrumentalist with a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2014 (The Earls of Leicester) and another for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2005 (Fiddler’s Green). A friend of mine introduced me to O’Brien’s music 20 years ago. The multi-instrumentalist blew my mind with Red on Blonde (1996), a masterful album of bluegrass variations on Bob Dylan songs.

Luedecke and O’Brien are on a mini-tour taking them from Washington, DC to Fort Worth. Both artists are promoting new albums, but their tour seems to revolve around having a good time as much as anything.

During a phone interview, Luedecke asked where to find the fun in Fort Worth. The only thing he knows about the city, he said, is what he heard in the lyrics of Steve Earle’s “Fort Worth Blues.” That song isn’t a lot of laughs.

“I come as a tourist,” he said. “That’s kind of how I got into this. I wanted to see all these places.”

Seeing places is easier for a folkie traveling around with a banjo in a rental car, rather than a rock band touring in a bus that delivers them straight to the gig, then whisks them off to the next town.

Luedecke’s album Domestic Eccentric showcases this simpatico duo to nice effect. Most of the songs are about family life (Luedecke and his wife are raising three young daughters) and they’re filled with humor and wry observation. Luedecke’s clever lyrics and sense of melody carry his songs while O’Brien embroiders them with tight harmonies and tasty background instrumentation.

Luedecke met O’Brien while recording in Nashville a few years ago. Luedecke suggested they record the new album in a 16-by-13-foot cabin in the Canadian’s backyard.

OLD MAN LUEDECKE (courtesy of his web site)

“It’s my retreat,” he said. “I write songs down there in my office in the woods.”

O’Brien flew to Nova Scotia in March to start the sessions. They needed a backhoe to clear away snow to allow them to load in the recording equipment. They recorded live without headphones or overdubs, just the two of them sitting side by side, vocals and instruments bleeding into each other’s microphones, giving the album a warm and present sound. They overdubbed bass and drum later.

“It’s a cool way to work,” Luedecke said. “We’ve been friends for a while. Tim’s an amazing musician. I feel lucky that he likes the songs I write.”

As our interview was winding down, I asked Leudecke if there was anything on his mind that he wanted to discuss or include in this story. With a slight Canadian accent, he said, “No, I think we’ve had a pretty good go, eh?”

But wait. He thought of a banjo joke: What’s the best pickup to put on a banjo? A Ford F-150!

Tim Luedecke and Tim O’Brien at 8 pm Friday at Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge. Tickets are $20-$25.

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