January 19, 2008


Strings afire: Burning Hell’s uke juke (Tim Perlich, 1/18/08, Now)

Glockenspiel may be the new cowbell, but Burning Hell main man Mathias Kom is determined to make 2008 the year of the ukulele.

Ridiculous? Preposterous? That’s what I said before hearing Stephin Merritt plinka-plinking on his mini-axe while singing a jingle for a Volvo commercial. So now that some of the groundwork has been laid by Merritt and other ukulele hipsters like Guelph's Barmitzvah Brothers and the People of Canada, the Burning Hell’s just-released Happy Birthday (weewerk) disc is ready to take advantage of the instrument’s covert creep back into the mainstream. [...]

Admittedly, the red-headed stepchild of the guitar family comes with a load of novelty baggage, and Korn isn’t going to undo the decades of damage done to the compact chordophone's credibility with one 13-track CD, however exquisitely produced and tastefully mixed by Andy Magoffin. However, it may cause some people to reconsider their opinion of the much-maligned four-stringed device originally developed in Hawaii during the 1880s.

“People always trash Tiny Tim, especially ukulele players, because right up until he died he couldn’t play the instrument very well. But an album called Girl (Rounder) that he did with Brave Combo in 1996 is amazing. The covers of the Beatles’ Girl and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven are, like, wow! His voice on those songs is incredible.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2008 7:08 AM

Another much maligned instrument, the banjo, has never sounded better than when played by Bela Fleck. Search for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. They've been around a while. They were on PBS last evening.

Posted by: Bartman at January 19, 2008 8:02 AM

I produced the Girl album with Brave Combo and very much appreciate your kind words!

Posted by: Bucks Burnett at January 20, 2008 10:09 PM

Let's not forget that the uke has been a staple of Hawaiian music for generations. Israel Kamakawiwa'ole was a huge guy who could play it well while singing in falsetto, and his cover of "Over the Rainbow / Wonderful World" is deservedly well-known.

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at January 20, 2008 11:13 PM