Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Recording Session

Sunday evening saw brother Jon paying my studio a visit. He was there to record tracks for my ukulele CD for children. With the deadline looming I knew a visit from Jon would bring some of his musical magic to the project. He is a super-talented musician and has lent his keyboard skills to the 'Ukulele Revolution' song and will feature on one of Craig Robertson's forthcoming CDs. We of course helped the whole thing along with a few glasses of 'Old Speckled Hen'.

For recording I use a PC running Cubasesx, a couple of good mics and a small valve preamp. The rest is in having good quality instruments and playing them as well as I can. It also helps to have my brother to come in and play so marvelously.

On a previous session Jon played piano for a version of 'Moonglow', I sang and played ukulele.

You can download and listen to the mp3 of 'Moonglow' by clicking here.


Saturday Ukulele Gig

On Saturday TUSC played the Calway House summer garden party and although only five members were present we managed to entertain the residents and their guests. The classic songs of the 20s and 30s went down well with the audience, but they even enjoyed our rendition of the Israelites. This was the first gig since January where we felt the need for amplification and just placing a couple of mics in front of us worked extremely well. Of course after the gig Tony, Steve, Jim and myself felt the cream tea refreshments were not quite the thing for Tuscivites and so we headed to the Lamb and Flag for a couple of well earned pints of 'Otter' beer (note the otter on the glasses).


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Josephine Baker Ukulele

A few months ago I suggested to Moogly Moo she might paint a Josephine Baker design on a ukulele. She has been so busy with various commissions the idea remained on hold until last week when she painted this little beauty. The ukulele is a Bruko solid okoume soprano and the design is painted with acrylics and then gloss lacquered for a hard finish. The neck was originally painted and so rather than lacquer it I applied a natural bees wax polish. I strung it with Ko'olau Gold strings as these match the design. As with all of Moogly Moo's painted ukuleles the sound is unaffected by the painting and the uke is nice to play.

You can check out more of Moogly Moo's Painted Ukuleles at www.paintedukuleles.com

Now what shall I do with this one, to keep or to sell?


Sunday, 22 July 2007

Complete Ukulele Songbook

The complete TUSC book 4 is here! The book is a collection of songs requested by club members and so contains a very eclectic mix of songs. Some will work well in the club setting and others may not. Here is the contents of the completed book, with the artist who's version we have used, for reference.

  1. Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
  2. That’s All Right Mama – Elvis
  3. Dizzy - Tommy Roe
  4. Moonlight Swim - Elvis Presley
  5. Two Princes - Spin Doctors
  6. Dancing Queen – Abba
  7. Shine - Take That
  8. It’s Not Unusual - Tom Jones
  9. Beautiful - Christina Aguilera
  10. Two Steps Behind - Def Leppard
  11. Venus – Bananarama
  12. It's Getting Better - Mama Cass
  13. Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter, Paul and Mary
  14. Only You - Vince Clarke
  15. Amarillo - Tony Christie
  16. Jackson- Johnny Cash
  17. Roly Poly - Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
  18. Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
  19. I Will Follow Him - Little Peggy March / Sister Act
  20. I’ve Just Seen A Face- The Beatles
  21. Every Day - Buddy Holly
  22. Stayin’ Alive - The Bee Gees
  23. Got My Mind Set On You - George Harrison
  24. The Wonder Of You - Elvis Presley
  25. I Don’t Feel Like Dancing - Scissor Sisters
  26. Breakdown - Jack Johnson
  27. Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones
  28. Something Stupid - Frank Sinatra
  29. Smile - Lily Allen
  30. Reach - S Club 7
  31. Do Re Mi - Julie Andrews
  32. The Weight - The Band
  33. You Can Get It If You Really Want - Jimmy Cliff

Some of the keys have been changed for ease of playing on ukulele.

I choose the last two songs and so thought I would share the videos with you. First off 'The Weight', but not performed by the Band, in this case the video is of Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show.

And now The Band version in this case they are joined by the Staples singers.

Here is Jimmy Cliff singing 'You Can Get It If You Really Want' with Jools Holland in 2003. Look out of Rico on the trombone.

I will shortly be updating the TUSC website with this book and a few other bits and pieces but in the meantime;

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Branscombe Beer Festival

Last Saturday the TUSC tour bus once again took to the road. This time we were away to the annual Branscombe Beer Festival in Devon. After battling our way though the mean streets of Honiton we managed to get within spitting distance of the picturesque village of Branscombe, however the narrow Devonian roads became increasingly difficult and only with a police escort did we manage to make it in. After a lunch of crab sandwiches, the now infamous TUSC desire for beer spurred us on to the festival venue.

The weather gods had smiled on us and with the sun burning down we decided to play outside. Quickly setting up and arranging our new Moogly Moo TUSC banner, it was soon time for our first set.

'Fran and Carol being ably assisted by TUSC roady Bill'

Grant and Tony (Pre-beer)

At half past three we launched into all the TUSC favourites. The good natured audience were very appriciative and responded warmly to all our songs. They particularly enjoyed 'Rudi' and 'The Israelites' and sang along with great gusto.

And so with the first set over it was time to begin enjoying the 30 local real ales available. I particularly enjoyed Branscombe Vale Brewery's 'Otter Bright' and Red Rock Brewery's 'Drift Wood'. There really is nothing better than strumming ukulele while drinking a good beer, in the company of good friends.

Debbie, Sarah, Scott and Tony enjoying a beer

There was just the little matter of our second set and so at half past seven we once again entertained the audience with our best songs. At Sarah's suggestion we also played 'Amarillo' for the very first time......thankfully it was a winner with the crowd and we kept it together though out the song.

We then really got stuck into the beer......some more than others.

Steve "Cheers"

Tony, Jim, Fran and Grant enjoy the beers

After a while we headed over to Sarah's cottage for some well needed food.

Fran and Bill prepare a feast

Steve lends a hand with his flaccid loaf

Grant is unimpressed by Steve's loaf

Drunken love birds

And so a great day drew to an end and we retired to tents. caravans, and sofas happy with a successful TUSC outing. But there was just one nagging question. What happen to Tony? He had left us earlier in the evening and set out to walk to his camp site a few miles away. I'll let Tony take up the story as he described it on a well know ukulele bulletin board...

"TUSC played two sets at the Masons' Arms Beer Festival in Branscombe last Saturday.....here are a few helpful hints on how to ensure a really good walk home after a uke gig at a beer festival:

Preparation is everything. Make sure you are woken in your rain-sodden tent at 5 a.m. on the day. A spaniel standing on your chest makes a handy alarm clock. Don't bother eating much; a small pilchard sandwich will suffice for lunch. Solids are for wimps.

Drink steadily through the afternoon and evening. Choose beers with names like "Crudgington's Olde XXX Goat Thumper". A gallon or so may be enough; more is better. The adrenalin from the gig means you won't really feel the effects until you pack up to go home.

Choose your route with care. The two and a half miles to the campsite starts with an envigorating 400ft ascent up the side of the East Cliff. This will test the ability of the ale to turn your legs to jelly. The path is important. When you drop to the ground from exhaustion and bewilderment, it's nice to know that there are plenty of flint shards to embed in your knees and palms.

Kit is crucial. Shorts and a pair of cheap plastic sandals are great for steep, rocky terrain. Two ukuleles, a rucksack and a shoulder bag stuffed full of songbooks and a music stand are the very minimum you should carry.

Timing is important too. Set off so that it becomes ominously dark before you're halfway home. And try to make sure that dusk is accompanied by torrential rain and a squally northerly wind. An Aloha shirt will give plenty of protection.

When you reach your tent an hour and a half after leaving the gig, it's perfectly acceptable to fall face first onto the groundsheet, raging and wailing against fate, the weather, the Devon countryside, and that stupid bloody sleeping cow you fell over. Try to subside into speechless weeping and gibbering before you wake up the kids.

Great gig, though."

It really was a great weekend. Big thanks go to Steve for driving the tour bus and for the marvellous cooked breakfast on Sunday Morning. Also a huge thank you to Sarah for organising the gig, camp site and welcoming us into her lovely home. And finally thanks to all the TUSC members who came along and made it all such fun.


PS. Sarah informs me that TUSC have been asked back to next years festival and they said we were the best entertainment all weekend!

Friday, 13 July 2007

Branscombe, Banners and Iso Herquist

Tomorrow is the Branscombe Beer Festival gig and Mandy has made TUSC a fabulous banner. Steve is ready with the mini bus, Sarah has booked the lunches and all the ukes are warmed up and ready to go.

Yesterday I received greetings from the super funky Iso Herquist. He has many ukulele projects including his band the 'Iso Herquist Experience', you can hear the track 'Boske Friske Fiske Rømpte Pømpte' on this weeks 'Ukecast' podcast (Episode 220). As well as promoting German gigs for Uni and her Ukulele and Kelli Rae Powell, he is planning a special feature on jazz ukulele for a future ukecast. As if all this wasn't enough he has been using the TUSC songbooks and is planning to start a strummers club in his home town.

Iso is a true ukulele revolutionary!


Sunday, 8 July 2007

New TUSC Member

This morning I received an email from Jim D'Ville, from the band Caravan Gogh. He is a marvelous ukulele player and teacher from Portland Oregon. He has been researching his ancestry and discovered his great, great... great Grandfather was born in Broadway, Somerset in 1616. I of course immediately offered Jim honorary membership of TUSC and he graciously accepted. As well as performing and teaching Jim also runs the 'Columbia River Gorge Ukulele Association'

You can find out more about Jim in this profile of him on 'Art Beat'.

Hear Caravan Gogh playing 'The Feline Fur Coat Ball'


Poster for the Branscombe Beer Festival

Here is the poster for the Branscombe Beer Festival. As you can see TUSC will be in attendance, so join us next weekend for a ukeing good time.


Thursday, 5 July 2007

Monday night at TUSC

TUSC met for the first time at the Constitutional Club last Monday. We sang our way through all our favourite songs and drank vast quantities of beer. After a little consideration we decided we like the new venue and the atmosphere seemed right for future TUSC meetings. Fortunately the members drinking on a Monday night also enjoyed our singing and playing, so we signed up and paid our membership.

The ukulele is a marvellous instrument for playing in a large group and with a little organisation a wonderful sound can be made. We just sing a few easy songs to warm up and then go around the circle with each person choosing the next song. There is always lots of talk about instruments and strings and the chance to play different ukuleles and of course we drink plenty of beer.

Anyone is welcome to come along to TUSC, you don't even need a ukulele. Steve and Alison are our 'Newbie Ambassadors' and will help you get acquainted with the club.

As you can see from the pictures we have a great time and drink lots of beer.


Sunday, 1 July 2007

First Songs in TUSC book 4

Moo and I are hard at work gathering together lots of songs and suggestions from TUSC members for the new song book. As way of a little preview here are the first three songs.

I thought it might be fun to post 'You Tubes' of the songs so you can have a listen to the songs. You can even play along to the ones in the same key.

'Banana Pancakes' (Song book version is in the same key)

That's All Right Mama (Song book version is in the same key)

'Dizzy' (In a different key, but gives you an idea of the feel we are after)

CLICK HERE to download pdf of the Book 4 preview

A New Venue and a Noisy Gig

It's been a busy week in the world of ukulele revolution. I spent Monday night at TUSC, with good songs and some great ukeing. The Taunton Ukulele Strummers Club have always met at the Old Inn, but this week we felt it was time to change. So on Wednesday I went to the Constitutional Club next door to the Old Inn to see if it could serve as a new home for TUSC. After some funny looks from the locals, I saw Trevor, ex landlord of the Old Inn, propping up at the bar with his usual cup of coffee. He bought me beer and spoke kindly of the uke club. He then put in a good word with Dave the steward and we are all set to try the Constitutional Club as a new venue. A few quick calls to the vicar and we also have use of the church hall car park too.

The Gig

Yesterday the TUSC camper van rolled down to Devon for a gig at the West Hill Village fete. Due to the rain we were in the village hall a high ceilinged, noisy old barn of a venue. We set ourselves up and at 1:00pm launched into our set. The response was completely underwhelming, everyone kept on buying plants and cakes... Perhaps it was because they could hardly hear us, we could hardly hear ourselves. Gradually one then two people stopped to listen... we began to build an audience. When Scott and I stood up for the song "Israelites" the tide turned and we had a proper audience. Apparently the acoustics of the hall were such that they could hear us better than we could hear ourselves. The gig was great fun and we had many great comments from the audience.

If you are interested in what TUSC are playing for gigs here is the set list from yesterdays show.
  • Sloop John B
  • I Wanna Be Like You
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • Rudi
  • The Hypnotist
  • Lion Sleeps tonight
  • Five Foot Two
  • Pennies From Heaven
  • Ukulele Lady
  • Israelites
  • Man of Constant Sorrow
  • Sweet Georgia Brown

And so as is the way with all our gigs and club nights we finished by standing for 'Sweet Georgia Brown', the ukulele national anthem.