It takes a fair bit of gumption to invited comparison to one of the heroes of the ukulele. Luckily for me, Mike was willing to send me a CD so I could check it out.
Mike’s been playing ukulele for 35 years and had a knack for it from the start. As a lad, he toured with J. Chalmers Doane – the man responsible for Canada’s peerless ukulele program which produced James Hill – as part of the Halifax Adult Ukulele Ensemble (read more about them here). He’s been strumming away since, but has only just put out his debut solo album.
The album is bookended with a couple of rollockin’ ukulele instrumental kicking off with Molly Brown Medley (featuring Freight Train and 12th Street Rag) and ending with Homesick Medley (which you can hear in the above video). In between Mike turns in vocal performances of songs such as Crocodile Rock, Leaning On a Lamppost and I’ll See You In My Dreams along with plenty instrumental versions of popular songs.
The Good Stuff
- The Playing: Mike is an incredibly accomplished ukulelist. He produces a crystal clear sound and manages to keep his playing articulately even at great speed. His picking and strumming on a spirited version of, the bossa nova tune, Brazil is breathtaking. If you want you ukulele playing to sound fluid and natural, you need to listen to this track and pay close attention.
- Singin’ In the Rain: Mike’s version of this song is insanely infectious. As soon as it can on I had to grab my uke and play this along to it.
The Not So Good Stuff
- Song Choices: I’d love to hear Mike make more adventurous song choices. Some of the songs on the CD (Over the Rainbow, Aloha Oe, Yesterday) have been done to death and these are my least favourite songs on the album.
- Production: Nothing wrong with the production if you like crisp and clean, but I prefer a bit of grit occasionally. It’d be great to hear what he can do when he really lets loose.
There’s some exceptional playing on this CD and any ukulele player would be well advised to sit up and take notice. You can buy the CD at CD Baby or individual tracks for download at PayPlay. Whichever option you chose, your life is not complete without these…
Essential tracks: Molly Brown Medley, Brazil, Polka Medley, Singin’ In the Rain, Homesick Medley.