Willie May – Maiuke – Ukelele Music
12 tracks; 42 minutes
Buffalo, NY’s Willie May is an eclectic musician, having made electric and acoustic albums in the past. On this release, however, he sets himself a new challenge with an album of mainly unaccompanied ukulele pieces. Willie wrote ten of the twelve songs here and produced the album. Evan Laedke joins him on melodica on two tracks (including one that he wrote), Mark Panfil plays accordion on one track and harmonica on two and Randy Bolman plays drums on one tune; otherwise everything you hear is Willie who adds some guitar, bass, kalimba and ocarina to his ukulele and vocals.
The ukulele is not heard often in the blues and it is interesting to hear Willie feature the instrument throughout though the music here is far from all blues, my I-Tunes classifying the album as ‘Country & Western’ though folk might be equally appropriate in some cases. On such a minimalist recording there really is no place to hide and Willie’s vocals are not the most robust though some of the songs work fine. Opener “Go Back Home” has a wistful lyric for which the lone ukelele makes the ideal accompaniment and “Another Moon Song” lopes along effectively with the accordion adding a dimension to the song which finds Willie getting ready to move on in life. “”Damn That Gubmint” (AKA government) with the rather strange melodica and “Shaken’ Tree Blues” are more blues than what has preceded but “Still Love You” (the only track with drums) is more of a catchy pop song with rather obvious lyrics.
Elsewhere Willie finds a little island vibe in “Wish You Could Stay” and “Made In The Shade” in which he sounds very contented with his lot – “I think I got it made”. The last two tracks add harmonica: “Hey Big Fannie” is a comic piece, a swinging blues on which the harp adds a definite blues feel, making it possibly the strongest track here; “Zombie Dance” was written by Ron Kain and adds a spooky feel with mention of a shaman and zombies who have “come to dance all night long”.
This is not an album that appealed to this reviewer’s tastes but Willie’s fans will no doubt appreciate his desire to explore new directions.