• Review: Pumpkin Spice & Parody by Scott Mead

    I can honestly say this is the first pumpkin-themed ukulele album I’ve ever reviewed. In fact, it’s the first pumpkin-themed ukulele album I’ve ever heard.

    California-based musician Scott Mead has focused on the fruit instead of ghosts and ghouls to celebrate Halloween and it’s just a lot of fun.

    The 10-track album starts with a solid original called It’s Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Pumpkin, but it’s in the parodies that Mead’s skill and sense of humour is most evident.

    Pumpkin Spice uses the John Mellencamp classic Hurts So Good as a base to lampoon the popularity of the seasonal seasoning and we’re left in no doubt as to Mead’s opinion of it: Pumpkin spice in my beer/tastes like a jack-o’-lantern’s ear. Paul Simon gets the Mead treatment with 50 Ways To Carve A Pumpkin and Eww, a send-up of Spandau Ballet’s True, is as silly as it sounds.

    Clever lyrics aside, Pumpkin Spice & Parody is extremely well produced. With nothing more than ukes, U-Bass, drums, percussion and voice, Mead has created an impressive sounsdcape.

    It’s not surprising that the artist lists “Weird Al” Yankovic and Dr. Demento as inspirations and I’m sure both of those gentlemen would get a kick out of this album. I certainly did.

    You can find Pumpkin Spice & Parody here: https://linktr.ee/gscottmead

  • Review: FIFTY/50 By Christopher Davis-Shannon & Jacques Pellarin

    Honestly, I didn’t realise I needed a ukulele/accordion album until I heard FIFTY/50 in all its glory.

    I’ve been a fan of Philadelphia-based uker Christopher Davis-Shannon for a few years now, so I was intrigued when I heard he was teaming up with French accordionist Jacques Pellarin. The result is something quite extraordinary and delightfully surprising.

    The two instruments combine beautifully and neither is more dominant than the other. From the pre-war frivolity of Summer 1925 to the more introspective Media Luna and classic-sounding Lady Josephine, there’s plenty to enjoy here. The only non-instrumental track, Willow, features lovely vocals from Charlotte Pelgen, herself an excellent uke player from Germany.

    Davis-Shannon displays an impeccable sense of rhythm throughout and throws in a few flashy strokes where required, as well as some nifty picking. I don’t know a whole lot about accordion music, but it’s clear Pellarin is a master of his craft.

    Jacques and Christopher: serious musicians

    I think what I like most about this album is its authenticity. It reminds me of the stuff people were doing with the ukulele back in the ’90s and early 2000s, before the instrument was universally popular and social media algorithms were part of the consciousness. In short, it’s a little weird, in the best possible way.

    FIFTY/50 is available at Bandcamp

  • Review: Breezin’ Along With The Breeze By The Ukulele Uff Trio

    I TRY not to be too effusive when it comes to reviews, but this album is a rare gem! Thoughtful arrangements, impressive musicianship and great production combine to create a foot-tapping listening experience. 

    Based in Liverpool, England, The Ukulele Uff Trio has been wowing audiences since 2014. Breezin’ Along With The Breeze is their second album and they’ve put together a diverse selection of 15 excellent tunes, most of them dating from the 1920s. Anyone who’s already a fan of Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys, the Sweet Hollywaiians and Ukulelezaza will find a lot to like here. 

    While the vintage Martin soprano of Chris ‘Ukulele Uff’ Hough shines through on almost every track, he’s accompanied superbly by Dave Searson on guitar and Bill Leach on Hawaiian steel guitar. Singing duties are shared throughout and special mention must go to John Lewis, who adds some lovely, lyrical clarinet on Oh How She Could Play A Ukulele

    Highlights include the jumpy Red Lips, Kiss My Blues Away, a pacy version of the English folk classic The Leaving Of Liverpool and Singin’ In The Rain, which may as well be retitled Swingin’ In The Rain, such is its inherent grooviness. 

    For uke purists, it’s hard to go past the two marches from 1893, Under The Double Eagle and The Liberty Bell, and the final tune on the record, Uke Medley, gives Chris a chance to show off his solo skills. 

    Make yourself a cup of tea (or a dry martini), put your feet up and prepare to be carried away with the breeze. I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

    Breezin’ Along With The Breeze is available on CD at ukuleleufftrio.co.uk or digitally at https://ukulele-uff-lonesome-dave.bandcamp.com

  • Review: A Hawai’i Interlude

    BORN and raised on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Makana has been lauded for his slack-key guitar stylings, but he’s also a fine uke player, as he proves on A Hawai’i Interlude.

    ‘Diverse’ is the first word that springs to mind when I think about describing this album. A lot of instrumental records suffer from a lack of diversity, resulting in a fairly mundane listening experience. That’s certainly not the case here. Each of the 20 tracks has been well thought out and expertly produced to showcase Makana’s impressive compositional skill and playing ability.

    A few of the standout uke-centric pieces include the smooth Kahala Jazz, somewhat ethereal Waiola Wonderland and spacey Waikiki 2050, which has a sort of synthwave feel to it. And special mention goes to Pu’uale’ale’a (Bliss Hill), which features renowned jazz trumpet player Deshannon Higa. There are also some fantastic non-uke tunes – my pick is Ha’iku Zen, a layered and interesting collaboration with slack-key guitar master Jeff Peterson and shakuhachi [Japanese bamboo flute] player Riley Lee.

    If you’re looking for something a little bit different to the norm, I urge you to seek out A Hawai’i Interlude. Makana has managed to create a thoroughly modern album that is quintessentially Hawaiian and pays tribute to the unique musical traditions of the islands.

    The album is available on various platforms. Simply follow this link: bit.ly/AHawaiiInterlude

  • Review: Ukexotic

    WHILE the uke has proven itself to be one of the world’s most versatile instruments, there’s no denying its tropical roots. Just a few strums can mentally transport the listener to an island paradise where the only thing you need to think about is which cocktail you’re going to order at sunset.

    If that’s the sort of feel you’re looking for, you can’t go past Mike Diabo’s new album Ukexotic. Inspired by the tiki/exotica scene of the 1950s and ’60s, it’s a polished collection of catchy ukulele instrumentals, bolstered by the addition of bass, percussion, flute and bird calls.

    “After looking around for a jet set-inspired uke-led album and coming up empty-handed, I thought I would record my own,” says Mike, who’s perhaps better known as guitarist Rev Hank in popular Canadian band Urban Surf Kings.

    The album opens with Ideal Surf Cafe, with its distinctive jungle rhythm and soothing vibes, and progresses through 11 tracks, appropriately ending with Tropical Twilight, which nicely highlights Mike’s uke playing. If you don’t have a Mai Tai (or at least a fruity mocktail) in your hand by this point, you’re doing something wrong! Cheers, Mike.

    Ukexotic is available here: https://reverbranch.bandcamp.com/album/ukexotic

    And here’s track 2 off the album, Penetration:


    I first met Dan “Cool Hand Uke” Scanlan in 2003 when I travelled from Australia to America for the Ukulele Hall Of Fame Museum Expo in Rhode Island. We became friends instantly and I’m so glad he’s decided to share his vast uke knowledge with the world in his new book How To Play Ukulele: A Complete Guide For Beginners.

    Now, firstly, if you’ve been playing for a few years, please don’t be deterred by the title – Dan’s packed a lot into this extremely helpful guide and I’m confident most people will get something out of it.

    The book is broken up into the three basic elements of music: rhythm, harmony and melody, and its clean, uncluttered design – complete with clear diagrams – makes it very easy to follow. While most beginners’ books include the basic anatomy of the uke, Dan goes one step further and touches on often neglected but vitally important aspects, such as string height.

    There’s a good variety of strums on offer, as well as an excellent section on understanding chords. While the information can get quite technical, Dan has an uncanny knack of explaining it simply and concisely. My favourite chapter is fittingly entitled “Doo-Dads” and contains useful techniques such as muffling, hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides – the stuff that will set you apart from other casual players. 

    I also love that the book is dotted with interesting facts and breakouts on ‘Ukulele Heroes’ and also includes a solid history of the instrument, which is foolishly missing in many other titles.

    From choosing your first uke to the business of learning a song and embellishing it, How To Play Ukulele is a one-stop shop for the aspiring musician. Thanks, Dan!

    Order your copy here: simonandschuster.com/books/How-to-Play-Ukulele

    By Cameron Murray


    The maestro returns with the follow-up to his 2016 album Nashville Sessions. Featuring the same producer and rhythm section, The Greatest Day feels like something of an evolution for the 41-year-old Hawaiian megastar.

    Joining bassist Nolan Verner and drummer Evan Hutchings this time around is guitarist Dave Preston, who adds another layer of complexity to proceedings.

    “On the last record, it was pretty much the sound of a live trio, which sounded fresh, raw and organic,” says Shimabukuro. “Now we’ve expanded to a quartet, which has added more colours and variety to the overall production. Once we recorded the live takes, we experimented with overdubs and added horns, strings and keys and other funky sounds. There are even some vocals on a few cuts.”

    Yep, vocals! Certainly something new to a Jake album.

    Comprising six originals and six covers, the record, which was recorded at the famous Ronnie’s Place studio in Nashville, is quite diverse. The first cover, The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, features world-renowned dobro player Jerry Douglas and works well as an instrumental. Other enjoyable covers include New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle, which is rather soft and gentle but still retains an immediacy and electro feel, and Bill Withers’ Use Me, which stars Preston on guitar and vocals and funks things up a treat.

    As for the originals, Straight A’s, inspired by the A string of the ukulele, is fun and playful and the addition of vibes is a nice touch. Meanwhile, Mahalo John Wayne is suitably cinematic and a fitting tribute to The Duke.

    The digital edition of the album includes a live version of the Sunday Manoa classic Kawika, which sees Jake returning to his island roots, and Blue Roses Falling, which features Jake duetting with cellist Meena Cho and reminds us of the magic that can be created with the two instruments.

    The Greatest Day is Shimabukuro’s riskiest record to date, but it’s also his most exciting because he’s taking those risks and finding new ways to make interesting music for his fans.



    1.Time of the Season

    2. The Greatest Day  

    3. Eleanor Rigby  

    4. Pangram  

    5. Bizarre Love Triangle  

    6. Straight A’s  

    7. If 6 Was 9  

    8. Shape of You  

    9. Go for Broke  

    10. Little Echoes  

    11. Mahalo John Wayne  

    12. Hallelujah



    13. Use Me (feat. Dave Preston) (’18 Live)

    14. Dragon (‘18 Live)

    15. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (’18 Live)


    13. Kawika (’18 Live)

    14. Blue Roses Falling (feat. Meena Cho) (’18 Live)

    15. Use Me (feat. Dave Preston) (’18 Live)

    16. Dragon (‘18 Live)

    17. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (’18 Live)


    Buy your copy of The Greatest Day here: jakeshimabukuro.com


    MOST Australian uke fans would know the name Rose Turtle Ertler.

    I first met Rose when I was a part of her first Ukulele Land concert in Sydney in 2004 and we often catch up at uke festivals and events around the country. I’ve always been amazed by her incredible creative energy, so it came as no surprise to me that she was involved with musicians and activists from the West Papuan community in Melbourne. She became a member of the Black Orchid String Band and they recently released a self-titled album.

    The first thing that struck me about the record was the beautiful presentation. I don’t know about you, but I still enjoy receiving a physical CD package in the mail. The enclosed booklet includes the wonderful stories behind the songs, many of which speak of the West Papuans’ struggle for independence from Indonesia.

    Politics aside, it’s simply a lovely album. The 10-piece band features traditional bass, ukulele, tifa (a type of drum) and three-part vocal harmonies.

    Fittingly, the lilting West Papuan Anthem gets things underway, then it’s on to Mystery Of Life, with its relaxed vibe and powerful lyrics about freedom. Next up, Melanesian (Brata na Sista) includes some nice steel-guitar work and a catchy chorus you’ll find yourself humming in the shower. The ukes get a good airing on Puke Elano (possibly my favourite) and Rose takes a starring role on Stars – a multilayered track that even features some beatboxing. The album finishes with a bang with Yako Pamane, a strum-happy tune that I think really sums up the friendly, generous nature of the West Papuan people.

    The music of Melanesia shares more than a little DNA with that of Polynesia, so lovers of Hawaiian music will certainly enjoy the Black Orchid String Band. In fact, I can’t think of a reason why anyone would dislike them. Their musical skill mixed with passion for their cause and an innate exuberance for life is an irresistible combination.



    SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

    Director: Billy Wilder

    Stars: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft

    WHEN Some Like It Hot was released in 1959, the ukulele was riding a second wave of popularity in America, largely due to influential television personality Arthur Godfrey’s on-air championing of the instrument.

    The classic comedy stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as struggling musicians who have to get out of Chicago in a hurry after they witness what is obviously supposed to be the 1929 St Valentine’s Day Massacre.

    Without a dime to their names and ruthless mobsters led by ‘Spats’ Colombo (Raft) on their trail, the hapless pair don wigs and nylons and manage to con their way into an all-girl band that’s headed for Miami. However, things get even more complicated when both men fall for the group’s soprano uke player, a vivacious blonde named Sugar Kane (Monroe).


    Despite the production being plagued by Marilyn’s hostile and unpredictable behaviour (Curtis allegedly described his love scenes with the icon as “like kissing Hitler”), the movie was a huge hit and Monroe won a Golden Globe award for her performance. In 2000, the American Film Institute listed Some Like It Hot as the greatest American comedy film of all time.

    Call us biased, but we reckon the uke played its part in the movie’s success. We can’t imagine the adorably kooky Sugar playing anything else!

    This article first appeared in Issue 1 of KAMUKE, which is available in the Store