I can’t get enough of the Decemberists’ approach to lyrics. They are full of strange and threatening characters. It’s a mystery to me why murder ballads are dying out – we’re supposed to be living a culture awash with violence. Chimbley Sweep is a little more light-hearted (but with a creepy undertow) – it could be a Mary Poppins song were it not for the blatant euphemisms – but has the usual characters and anachronistic language (‘chimbley sweep’ comes from Martin Chuzzlewit). It also happens to be an excellent strum-along ukulele song.
The original version of this song was recorded by a guitar with a capo on the first fret (as you can see in this video) which puts it almost into uke territory. If you want to play along with the record, you have to tune your uke down half a step to B-tuning (F# B Eb G#) but the chords are named as the familiar C-tuning shapes. Other than that, the chords are the first few you learn.
But I couldn’t help but make things a little tricker on myself. I prefer the sound of this chord progression played when your uke is tuned to C# (or capoed at the 1st fret). The chord shapes are a little more tricky. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.
Learn another Decemberists song on Mike’s Ukulele Page.
Read (Decemberist guitarist) Chris Funk’s agony uncle page answering queries such as, “what gift befits a newborn monarch whose father’s untimely death (by your own hand) allowed the succession of such a young heir?” And watch him bravely defend the honour of indie music against Stephen Colbert in a guitar solo challenge.