Brady Harris “Ukulele Days” (Lampshade Records, 2016)

brady-harrisThe title pretty much sums up the concept – Harris ukulises some originals and a whole bunch of covers. It’s not just Harris and his trusty instrument, there’s plenty of diverse instrumentation here – though strangely when it’s just Harris and the ukulele things pick up markedly. The ukulele is the folksy thread stringing the songs together and after a while it proves to be the weakness, the reliance on it rendering everything else as a sideshow and bringing the ear back to the novelty element. The record sounds like a drunken idea that wasn’t discarded the next morning.

Harris’ voice is wonderful throughout – it’s a gently powerful instrument and the harmonies are gorgeously mellifluous – even if they do sometimes err towards over-sweetness (see ‘Right Down The Line’) – but the metronomic ukulele strum intrudes on such pleasures. It acts like a sonic irritant, almost a triumph of bloody-mindedness over sense. By the time I get to ‘Lauren, Lauren’ the strumming is just about all I can hear; even when it fades it is still there.

It’s not so bad when it is just the ukulele as on ‘Good Timin’’ and ‘This Boy,’ or maybe the source material (Beach Boys & Beatles) is strong enough to withstand the treatment.

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

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