Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The 50 Best Songs of Hawaii

Lets just be honest here.

All too often,  mainlanders who've taken up the
ukulele have little working knowledge of Hawaiian musical traditions.

I know this is a blanket statement and some of you might balk at just a generalization.

But....in my 20 years of riding the ukulele wave, traversing America's highways
and byways, upwards of 40,000 miles a year

Here's what i conclude....

There are many on the mainland who regularly visit Hawaii,
and many who are from Hawaii, as well as some who simply love Hawaiian music
and in doing their homework, have gone much deeper then Jake, Ohta and Iz.

But the sad reality is that unless you're a member of the Santa Cruz Ukulele or
some coastal area that attracts touring Hawaiian artists, chances are you're
scratching your head wondering where to begin, whence seeking out Hawaiian
music in all its breadth and glory.

That's why i am sharing this link to a fabulous list of 50 of the greatest Hawaiian songs
of all time.

Here's an awesome reference from Honolulu Magazine, to help you get started.

http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/June-2007/50-Greatest-Songs-of-Hawai-8217i/index.php?cparticle=1&siarticle=0#artanc

I would urge you to read the article, but do your homework along the way.
That is, if you are unfamiliar with any of the songs mentioned, go to You Tube
and see if you can find some nice versions these.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jake's Pedal Set Up

If any of you have ever wondered how Jake gets that amazing wall of sound out of
a single ukulele, the following video posted on REVERB.COM will be quite insightful.

The typical player will almost always have a reverb pedal and a delay, those two are a must.

However.....
Jake elaborates on his addition of a Tube Dreamer, Octave Pedal, Volume Pedal and
Looping effects.

His set-up no doubt is the result of 100's if not 1000's of hours of experimentation with
electronic pedals, in his quest for the perfect tone / sound. The most inventive players
all seem to have this obsessive drive in common when it comes to trying out
the greatest and latest gear.

Like his guitar playing contemporaries, the use of pedals helps him create a sonic
palette that is quite diverse in its range of dynamics from great big rich chords on the
octave pedal to volume manipulation on his Hilton Volume Pedal....there's a wide
variety of effects being used in his on stage shows to great success, especially
given the limitations of a small acoustic instrument with nylon strings and the ever
lurcking menace of feedback that can be inherent when plugging in
ukuleles.

I've personally built a style of early blues, ragtime, folk and old time
string-band based repertoire on resonators where good microphones and
their placement in relationship to your fretboard and sound hole are supreme.
But when i perform in my blues quartet for my Jews N Blues Show i
do plug in and have spent alot of time trying to figure out how to get a good
blues tube sound out of my wood bodied ukuleles. But this is a whole different
beast so we'll save it for another post.

Never the less, it interests me, to know what one of the most visible ukulele pros is
using to get the sound he gets.

There's no substitute for good technique and Jakes sound is based as much on
his agility, expertise, rhythmic pizzaz, wide variety of strums, picking patterns,
single string lead style, chordal melody playing and inventive arranging as
it is on effects pedals.

Bottom line....the effects pedals are the icing on the cake!

Check out this very informal and intimate patter on his pedal effects...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbiotIXpi1M


                        America's Hardest Working Uke Star- Jake Shimabukuro


Here's a link to Jakes Sitehttp://www.jakeshimabukuro.com/home/ 

Hear some of Jakes Newest Record Streaming on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Nashville-Sessions-Jake-Shimabukuro/dp/B01JO9LT02/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1488227679&sr=8-2&keywords=jake+shimabukuro


Hope you enjoyed this blog post,

Lil Rev (C)(P) Fountain of Uke 
2-27-17
www.lilrev.com 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dan Scanlan's New "Cool Hand" Soprano Uke

I've known Dan Scanlan for almost 20 years now....

I have had the pleasure of working alongside him in Nova Scotia at the Ceilidh,
as well as at countless festivals across the U.S. 

In a sea of posers, I have long championed Dan as the "real deal," and he's why...
his heart is so undeniably rooted in all things ukulele and he's paid his toll after decades 
of championing the ukulele (and long before it was cool).

He is unassuming, down to earth, salt of the earth, a consummate ukulele historian, 
and a strong player with a unique style all his own. 

Its these things and more, that keep me interested in what my pal Dan is up to ukulele-wise.

Recently, he has begun promoting a new line of ukulele's with his signature "Cool Hand Uke" model. 

What follows is a short interview with him. 

1-Tell us about your ukulele responsibilities these days? What are you involved with in terms of clubs, festivals, teaching, etc.

I continue to direct and teach Cool Hand Uke’s Strum Bums Ukulele Extravaganza Rescue and Relief Band. We have met weekly since 1999 and perform publicly 60 to 90 gigs each year—assisted living, convalescent and retirement homes, schools, county fairs and various community fund-raisers. We received a standing ovation at the New York Ukulele Festival, served as the “house band” at the Santa Cruz CA Festival, and have performed at the Honolulu International Ukulele Festival twice. 

My 75-lesson ukulele course Play Uke Now at udemy.com has more than 1600 students from 67 countries. Three iBooks on the ukulele, including ukulele history, are on Apple’s iTunes.

For the past ten years I have toured from California to Nova Scotia and back giving workshops and performances bi-annually. This year would have been a tour year but the anchor gig where I emcee, the Liverpool Nova Scotia International Ukulele Ceilidh, is not hosting American players this year due to the current exchange rate and the unpredictable border situation.

I am currently developing a two-set, one-man show of primarily original tunes on ukulele, raj√£o, braguinha, baritone, harmonica and baglama to take on the road later this year.


2-What's so endearing about the ukulele to you after all these years?

The friendliness of the ukulele continues to give me the strength to express my political, social and justice concerns without alienating those who don’t share my stunning insight. As a tool to access my heart, spleen and neurotransmitters it has elevated my highs and softened the hard bumps in my life. The ukulele is multi-cultural both in the annals of history and in the current day. The ukulele is the cynosure of the most effective peace movement on the planet today. What’s not to hold dear?

3-What's a quote-able Dan Scanlan saying as it pertains to the ukulele .....impart some wisdom

Quote from my website:

WHY UKULELE?
The ukulele can be
Cradled like a baby,
Sing like a bird and
Is small enough to
Emanate large and
Absorb and expand
The subtle emotion
The player Feels.
It's here now
And there then.



The final quote from The Mighty Uke Movie trailer:
There’s a lot of music in the ukulele—a lot of music!


4- Why Cool Hand Ukulele Soprano Ukuleles? How Much? Where to Get em' ? Why would someone want one of these over the slew of other instruments now available? 

I’ve dreamed of offering a signature ukulele for decades. Many of the early players gave their names to ukuleles—Wendall Hall, Roy Smeck, Bobby Henshaw, May Singhi Breen, Arthur Godfrey. It is a thread of ukulele culture. As a one time radio host I shared that experience, too, with Hall, Breen and Godfrey. Being able to offer my own ukulele was akin to offering my own songs, performances, lessons and recordings. And any uke I offered would have to be the original ukulele, now called a soprano, sound good, be sturdy, play well and be beautiful. At one time I fantasized making ukuleles, but that thought vanished when I found this one. 

After investigating 100s of ukuleles I came across one that had it all—beautiful, great sustain and volume, comfortable playability, exceptional intonation. In short a true ukulele I could be proud to give my name. I had hoped to be able to offer my ukulele for under $200, but shipping costs and refinements made that impossible. I am however happy to be able to offer it for $320, substantially less than other ukuleles in its class. They are available at my website www.coolhanduke.com, and at several music stores, including Wonderwall Emporium in Chicago Heights IL. 

The Cool Hand Uke is precision crafted on state of the art computer controlled machinery of spruce, rosewood and mahagony. The spruce top is strengthened by fanned “flying arch” braces that straddle the bridge plate, allowing the majority of the top to reverberate stronger and longer. Rather than a large sound hole in the center that is often muffled by the player’s hand, a smaller hole and pearlescent rosette is located at the top of the small bout. A larger hole is located on the upper side of the large bout so the player can hear clearly. Fret location dots on the top and sides of the rosewood fretboard help the player identify where to play. The tuners enclose smooth action gears for easy tuning. The nut and saddle are bone, and the top is bound in rosewood and shell. Aquila strings are used. I play and verify the integrity of each instrument before it is shipped. I commissioned 40 of them. Each is numbered  on the back of the peghead (I play Number 1 every day). Although I own many high-end ukuleles, this is the one that has become my favorite and that responds best to my styles of playing, whether heavy percussion or soft tickling.


                                                           
                                        Dan Scanlan's New Cool Hand Uke Soprano Model 

{Please Note: this is not a paid ad for this instrument, it is merely a flag to let folks know that this product is out and on the market. Lil Rev has not played one of these instruments and its merits are based on the opinion of Dan Scanlan}

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Teaching @ Elderly Instruments in March

After a long hiatus, I'll be heading back to Michigan to teach a few classes
at Elderly Instruments (https://www.elderly.com ) in Lansing.

It was way back in the mid-90's that Elderly took a big chance on a little known
record called Uke Town, which was my first real attempt to feature a mess'o
ukulele on wax.

Thanks in part to long time employees at Elderly like Chris Rietz,
Brian Hefferan, Stan Werbin, Libby and a few others, the store began to play my
CD in store alot, which led to new fans, gigs and a very appreciate musician...Lil Rev!

In 1996, that same year, they also featured my Uke Town https://www.lilrev.com/cd-uke-town
as a "HOT PLATTER, in their mail order catalogue, which also boosted sales and encourage
me to make a full length, "all" ukulele record (the fountain of uke series).

I've always felt a huge debt of gratitude to Elderly and their dedicated staff
for recognizing that the ukulele was coming back (way ahead of the national curve)
and that they deemed me worthy enough to stock my recordings on their showroom floor and
in their catalogue was something i'll always be grateful for. It really helped get
the word out about what i was doing with regards to the ukulele.

Elderly started in the 1970's as just a small operation and thru alot of hard work,
owner Stan Werbin and a very dedicated crew have put Lansing, MI on the map
for like-minded acoustics music lovers, traditional players, local students
and an international customer base that looks forward to receiving the elderly catalog
even more so in this digital era, whence it really does feel good to hold something real
in your hands!

Musicians and music lovers the world over love visiting Elderly, and who wouldn't?
Guitars galor, banjo's, mandolins, ukuleles, books, records, and all the accouterments
one might consider as a picker are available at Elderly.

Thank you Stan, Chris, Brian, Libby and so many others at Elderly!

I will be teaching 2 workshops on Saturday March 4th-

11am-12:30pm- The Blues & Boogie of Leadbelly For Ukulele. (open to all levels)

https://www.elderly.com/the-blues-boogie-of-leadbely-a-ukulele-workshop-with-lil-rev-saturday-march-4-2017-11-am-12-30-pm.htm

3pm-4:30pm- Learn 6 Triplet Strokes on the Ukulele. (open to all levels) 

https://www.elderly.com/calendar/revtrips/


If you're a local ukulele player and you can't make the elderly classes in March, i'll be back in the area in June at the Midwest Ukulele Camp (June 23rd-25th) teaching with a world class cast of Ukulele & Harmonica players for a full weekend of jamming, workshops, vendors, and more. http://www.midwestukecamp.com

                                     My Good Pal, Ukulele Guru and longtime Elderly Employee Brian Hefferan

                                                                     Brian and I doing St. James Infirmary Blues 
                                          








Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lil Rev's 2016 CD release: Claw & Hammer Liner Notes

Notes On The Making of My New Claw & Hammer CD

The Idea:
In the early winter months of 2016, after an nearly unbearable 2015, i decided i'd focus my 
mind on something positive whilst my daughter and i whiled away the cold, 
dark winter months that proceded Carol's passing. 

To that end, i determined that a new recording project might be 
just the ticket! 

Having endured a treacherous year of illness, depression, and 
near death myself (stung by a black wasp and went into Anaphylaxis shock), 
i needed this project to be light, fun and easy.  

Given this, I pulled out a list of tunes i'd been compiling over the last couple of years; 
mostly early country, folk and pre-bluegrass type stuff that i aimed to record 
with a claw-hammer bent to them. 

About My Claw-Hammer Roots: 

My love of banjo playing was mostly inspired by backing up my longtime
music pal John Nicholson of Frogwater. John is an incredible player and
over the years i grew to love old time banjo mostly thru backing him up.

I was asked to teach a folk instruments class for educators and music majors
at The University of WI-Milwaukee many years ago and it was during this time
that i taught myself the claw-hammer banjo.

The late Gail Heil of Spring Grove, MN was also a huge help along the way, when
one summer day she took the time to teach me the actual claw-hammer stroke.

I practiced it for about 4 weeks before i really started getting comfortable with it.

Over the years i came to love banjo music and listened intently to: Doc Boggs, Stephen Wade,
Hobart Smith, Uncle Dave, Grandpa Jones, Riley Baugus, Walt Kokenen, Steve Rosen,
Jim Eyman, Cathy Fink, Howard Bursen, Peter Thornquist, Ken Perlman, Clarence Ashley,
and 100's of others, all of whom informed and inspired me.

As the years wore on, i discovered that i enjoyed playing the claw-hammer stroke alot more on the ukulele than i did on the actual banjo and a repertoire of tunes began to take shape.

About The Album: 

I recorded the record in Milwaukee, WI at Surround in Sound Studios under the steady hand of Jonathan Leubner (where i've done many a project).

The Musicians i included are some of the best around!

Session #1 was a solo session. I recorded:
Old No. 7 and original instrumental piece
Epiphany in Gm another solo instrumental piece also...
Ragged But Right, Skillet Good N Greasy,

Session #2: Was an incredible experience, once again i leaned hard on
a few of my favorite harmony singers: Jim Eannelli, Robin Pluer, John & Mike Sieger
and Peter Roller (to overdub) a handful of tunes including: No Mo' Cane On The Brazos,
Gonna See The King, Green Grows The Laurel and


Session #3:
Bob Bovee and Lynn Chirps Smith came in for a session of old time fiddle tunes
and these two guys have both been my hero's for years. They know old time music
and together we recorded: Cotton Eyed Joe, Possum On A Rail, Dandy Lusk and
Spider Bit The Baby with Bob on guitar and mouth harp and Chirps on Fiddle.
I was going for an old time string-band sound and decided for my part to employ
the banjo-ukulele which was rhythmically the driving force behind many great string
bands in the 20's and 30's including The Fiddling Powers Family, Al Hopkin's Buckle
Busters and Da Costa Wolz's Southern Broadcasters.

The Last Session (#4) included local guitar hero Jason Klagstad whose 6 string ukulele work
brought new life to the old Hank Garland tune: Sugar Foot Rag.

John Nicholson played rhythm ukulele on this session (as well the Angeline The Baker Duet) and Guy Fiorentini added upright bass on a bevy of tunes from Sugar Foot Rag and Snow Drop to Walking Boss.

Also in the mix was my dear old pals Will Branch (Guitar) and Dave Fox (Fiddle) who came in to record Liza Jane an old fiddle tune i'd learned from Dave and Jim Eyman's playing on an old cassette tape.


About The Tunes: 

Cotton Eyed Joe- I learned this from Kenny Hall. I play a gold-tone banjo ukulele on this.
Epiphany in Gm- I wrote this in Tampa, FL in 2014.
Gonna See The King- Learned this from an old Washington Phillips Record.
Keep My Skillet Good N Greasy-An Uncle Dave Macon Tune.
Old No. 7- I wrote this after a Krav Maga Class. No. 7 is one of 7 defensive elbow strikes.
Possum On A Rail-I was turned onto this tune by John Nicholson, whom i credit with inspiring me
to learn many great fiddle tunes.
Morning Blues- Another Uncle Dave Macon Tune
Old Joe Clark-A Stringband Standard...is there anyone who hasn't heard this tune?
Don't Say Goodbye: Blue Sky Boys Tune i have always loved.
Angeline The Baker: Stephen Foster Classic piece
Walking Boss- Clarence Ashley was my source
Spider Bit The Baby-Dave Para and Cathy Barton were my source for this Kenny Baker Tune
Portland County Jail- Art Thieme was my source for this Carl Sandburg American Songbag Tune
Green Grows The Laurel-Don Edwards was my source for this beautiful old broken hearted love song
Snow Drop-Sam and Kirk McGhee was the roots, Ken Middleton and Cathy Fink were the catalysts
Dick Norman- Loman Cansler of Folkways records collected tons of great tunes in Missouri
Fiddling Dave's Liza Jane-Dave Fox was my source
Ragged But Right- Riley Puckett was my source for this Tin Pan Alley-Esq tune
Dandy Lusk- Spencer and Raines are two of my favorite young fogies and they were my source for this cool 1 chord tune.
Ain't No More Cane- I have always loved this one, to be found in the Lomax collection: Folk Songs of North America.
Sugar foot Rag-Hank Garland is the only source for this!
Ginny's Gone Away; The hidden track i learned from Joe Hickerson, former head of The Library of Congress Folk Archive







Sugar Babe Blues in Wall, SD



This summer i am traveling with my daughter Mariela Rose and my

girlfriend Jenna Lynn on a summer tour of the west coast.



We are stopping in: WA, OR, CA to teach and perform ukulele.



The route west will take us thru Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming,

Montana and finally Washington. This western experience is at the heart

of what i love about being on the road....big open sky, horses, cattle,

rusted cars, broken fences, tiny ma and pop cafes, black coffee, bonding

time with family and friends, and lots of jamming and practicing time

as we traverse from town to town.



While in Wall, South Dakota the following video was shot:



Morning Coffee, Just Picking some tunes, rehearsing for my tour.

There's a whole slew of tunes i never perform on stage, just things i like

to play when i am at home on the porch. That's what i was doing

playing Sugar Babe, when Jenna turned on the video and caught me

rocking out.



I first heard this played by Mance Lipscomb of Texas, via an old Arhoolie

record.



Lots of old time banjo players seemed to love this song and i speculate

it was a standard piece that was shared by alot of different folks around

the country from the 1930's thru ?



I am no stickler for perfection, i am guessing and i could sing and pick this

tune much better if i recorded it over and over again like most folks do prior to posting

a video.. but this was just a magic moment caught in the morning

while i wasn't in need of anything that even remotely resembled perfection...

these are the moments when we are plugged into that intangible something

and the heart knows only now...when our senses are wide open and free will

courses thru our blood. Ah! The magic of the road. Enjoy Sugar Babe.





Monday, April 18, 2016

The Triumphant Return of Lil Rev To The Festival Circuit


Hello Dear Friends,

This weekend marked a turning point for me as i headed out to teach and perform
at The Traverse City Ukulele Festival in Michigan.

https://mightyukefesttraversecity.com

2015 was the lowest point in my life...as my family and I suffered with the loss of
 our dear Carol to lung cancer.

We fought valiantly for 10 months and tried everything.
In the end, carol decided home hospice was the best option, so....

I cancelled the vast majority of my work (and it was a stellar year for bookings) and
it was only thru the good grace of my fans, family and local community that we kept
afloat all those months. God Bless all of you....Thank you! Thank you for all your
help. We will always be grateful to you.

While my 2016 show will recount some of these painful moments....mostly my daughter
and I will celebrate life as we always have. For we must go on, pick up the pieces of a
shattered life and begin to make it whole once again.

I am especially proud of my daughter Mariela, she has been defiant in keeping her mom's
memory burning brightly in our home each day. She has weathered a terrible turn
that no kid should have to live thru and somehow, with grace and strength come
out on the other side resolute in her conviction that momma is now in a better place.
This kid is tough, she is a deep souled little trouper whose love and affection knows
no end. She has been my inspiration thru this dark, forbidding period in our life.
She looks to me each day for guidance, but someday when she is grown i will remind
her how she got up each morning and found the strength to go to school even as
her mom was gasping for each breath and starving to get calories in her.

Grief is the oddest of bedfellows and i did more than my share of sleeping with it.

In the end, i decided that my dear Carol was right..." love is the highest vibration"

I had, had enough crying, mourning, and being depressed. It was time, for my daughter's
sake and my own health's sake to pull it together and start breathing in the nectar of life
once again.

For me, this means a full palate of play with my daughter, Hapkido, Skateboarding, gigs,
work on a new ukulele album and getting my waylaid lilrev.com biz rolling again.

To honor Carol we have planned a summer tour of the west coast titled: Scatter The
Ashes Tour. Carol expressed to me a few days before she passed, that "those were the
happiest days of her life, when all three of us where on the road together and Mariela was
but a wee beansprout and we'd make our south  by southwest...west coast run each
winter for 3 months.  We made alot of friends, saw some beautiful country and had
alot of great times together. So to honor her wishes, Mariela, Jenna Lynn and I will embark
on a whirlwind 6 week tour of WA, OR and CA before returning home.

Both prior to the summer tour and after, this year is shaping up nicely.

I am booked at the following ukulele festivals and Music Camps this year....and man am i looking forward to getting back out on the road....so i intend to be there!

Traverse City Ukulele Festival-April 16th in MI

Wheatland Traditional Arts Weekend -May 27th, 28th and 29th Remus, MI

Great MN Ukulele Gathering - June 3rd, 4th and 5th
http://www.bluegrassfun.com/2015-great-minnesota-uke-gathering.html 

Midwest Ukulele Camp- June 24th, 25th and 26th
http://www.midwestukecamp.com  Olivette, MI

Scatter The Ashes Summer Tour of The West Coast - July 8th thru August 4th
see: www.lilrev.com 

Strathmore Ukulele & Guitar Summit- August 13th thru the 17th
https://www.strathmore.org/events-and-tickets/uke-summit-16
North Bethesda, MD

Midwest Ukulele Festival-August 20th and 21st  Woodburn, IN

Milwaukee Ukulele Festival- Saturday October 1st -Milwaukee, WI


Uke-Fully,

Lil Rev
www.lilrev.com

silly faces circa 2015