Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – Stupendous. This has been such a successful undertaking that it would be criminal if it wasn’t repeated with other collaborators.
This album by the Hawaiian virtuoso ukulele player is his first non-instrumental album and has been recorded with a number of guest musicians over a two-year period. I love these sorts of projects as they invariably produce some gems and give an insight into what an artist could sound like if they took off in a different direction with a fresh collaborator. In this instance, the collection is a real joy to listen to, featuring an eclectic variety of singers performing numbers that fall into two categories: either hit songs the singers themselves are associated with or covers of well-known standards. For example, there’s Ziggy Marley doing “All You Need is Love” (one of four Beatles covers) on one hand and Bette Midler belting out one of her best-loved songs “The Rose” on the other.
I first came across this incredible musician on YouTube performing a stunning solo version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. He has recorded in a wide variety of musical styles and his versatility and sheer musicality is shown off here as he sensitively adapts his ukulele playing to the demands of each song. Needless to say, there is some beautiful playing throughout and apart from the crystalline purity of his soloing his arrangements for each song are inspirational. Some of the artists weren’t well known to me so it has been a pleasurable introduction to a couple of the comparatively younger musicians on this album: “Two High” by Nashville band MoonTaxi and “Find Yourself” by Lukas Nelson are both excellent songs and the versions here are gorgeous. Lukas is the son of Willie Nelson who was the first person that Jake recorded with for this project. “Stardust” is about a perfect a song as has ever been written and the rendition by this county legend is of monumental proportions. One of the standout tracks on what is a consistently superb set of numbers is the collaboration with Warren Haynes on Alvin Lee’s “On the Road to Freedom”, which is 13 minutes of heavenly interplay between two musical titans. The combination of uke’ and bluesy electric is sheer perfection.
Two of the generous helping of 16 songs on this set feature two other virtuosos in their own fields: slide supremo Sonny Landreth features on the punningly titled “Sonny Days Ahead” and bluegrass player Billy Strings is the star of “Smoking Strings”. Both live up to expectations and are the only two new original songs created for the album. A couple of my other favourites here are the opening track, Stevie Wonder’s “A Place in The Sun” performed very simply with fellow Hawaiian Jack Johnson and Paula Fuga and the early Cream song “Wrapping Paper” featuring the deep tones of Ray Benson along with Asleep at The Wheel. This has been such a successful undertaking that it would be criminal if it wasn’t repeated with other collaborators. My interview with Jake will be published soon.
1. A Place In The Sun ft. Jack Johnson & Paula Fuga
2. Sonny Days Ahead ft. Sonny Landreth
3. All You Need Is Love ft. Ziggy Marley
4. Why Not ft. Kenny Loggins
5. Smokin’ Strings ft. Billy Strings
6. Find Yourself ft. Lukas Nelson
7. On The Road To Freedom ft. Warren Haynes
8. Come Money ft. Jimmy Buffett
9. Something ft. Vince Gill & Amy Grant
10. Two High ft. Moon Taxi
11. A Day In The Life ft. John Anderson
12. Go Now ft. Michael McDonald
13. Wrapping Paper ft. Ray Benson & Asleep At The Wheel
14. Stardust ft. Willie Nelson
15. The Rose ft. Bette Midler
16. Get Together ft. Jess Colin Young