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Shimabukuro, Jake: Nashville Sessions

I'm not sure if it's a huge compliment, or the gravest insult I could pay Jake Shimabukuro, but with his album, Nashville Sessions, it's initially hard to spot the unique selling point. If you simply slip this album into the player, you're left in no doubt that this is a good, but reasonably straight down the line guitar instrumental piece. A host of ideas and attacks brought into play through the talented, busy fret work of Shimabukuro himself. So where does this album differ from most? Well in that Jake Shimabukuro isn't a guitarist at all, the fret finger fiddling actually taking place on a ukulele. To hear this instrument in a rock setting isn't quite as rare as we might think, and yet for it to be the star right across an album that rocks hard and heavy isn't something you can say happens every day.

"Man Of Mud" is an upbeat bluesy number, an almost Satriani-like rolling shuffle with some space age swoops and whooshes proving hard to resist. And yet when the song really lets rip it's the ukulele that's tearing it out and damn convincingly so. "6/8" brings a dirtier, grittier Hendrix inspired outlook into the equation and yet only after a scrabbling, taught melody line takes centre stage. It's strange, unusual and yet somehow familiar. Drummer Evan Hutchings and bassist Nolan Verner are key to the album's best moments, a sound that can sometimes be high-pitched tempered by a mighty bottom end. Without which Nashville Sessions wouldn't be able to snarl and slash in the way it often does.

Subtlety can also be found, "Galloping Seahorses" and "Tritone (excerpt from Byron Yasul's Ukulele Concerto, Camapanella First Movement)" an exercise in restraint and poise, the former a chiming melodic delight, the latter a more off kilter hit of jazzy themes and beats. However, in truth, this album is much more engaging when Jake and his band throw caution to the wind and bring something new, "F Minor" dashing and darting, "Kilauea" other worldly in its unusual stand point.

Bring it all together and you get a strangely cohesive, yet individual journey that stands up to repeat listens. Arguably, in at least half of these songs you could replace the admittedly eclectic ukulele with guitar and to the untrained ear, not really notice the difference. In itself that may be a little bit of a let down, however it sure as hell is impressive. I can't quite say that Nashville Sessions finds me defecting to the scores of ukulele devotees and yet I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to having been suitably captivated by what can be achieved by this often forgotten instrument.

Track Listing
1. Hemiola Blues
2. 6/8
3. Man of Mud
4. Galloping Seahorses
5. Motown
6. Celtic Tune
7. Tritone (excerpt from Byron Yasui's Ukulele Concerto, Campanella First Movement)
8. Blue Haiku
9. Ballad
10. F Minor

Added: January 14th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Jake Shimabukuro online
Hits: 1119
Language: english

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