First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2007, Volume 14, #11
Written by John Metzger
Fri November 23, 2007, 09:30 AM CST
There’s only one thing stranger than listening to Led Zeppelin’s Going to California or The Beatles’ Here, There and Everywhere being performed on a ukelele. It’s hearing how stunningly beautiful Jake Shimabukuro makes the songs sound. The rest of his six-track EP My Life is equally exquisite.
On stage, Shimabukuro is a flamboyant performer who not only amplifies his ukelele but also plays it with his teeth. His repertoire runs the gamut from Hawaiian folk to classical fare, though his covers of rock and blues songs are what has garnered him the most attention. Over the course of the past few years, Shimabukuro has become a sensation of sorts in Japan, and more recently, he has begun to make a similar impression across the United States. Not only has he toured with Bela Fleck and Jimmy Buffett, but he made a splash on YouTube with his adaptation of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Shimabukuro’s fascination with turning The Beatles’ material into instrumental showcases for the ukelele isn’t as big of a stretch as it might initially appear. Although Harrison may have been the biggest and the most respected spokesman the instrument ever had, John Lennon also learned to play the ukelele at an early age, while Paul McCartney has been sporting one on his last few tours. Shimabukuro simply carries their legacy one step further. In addition to Here, There and Everywhere, he also delivers a resplendent rendition of In My Life by plucking and strumming his ukelele in a way that makes it sound like a high-pitched classical guitar.
Shimabukuro performs solo on four of My Life’s six tracks, and he’s joined by a modest slate of accompanists on the other two selections. The results are subdued and soothing, though there undoubtedly is more to Shimabukuro’s appeal than what he displays on the set. Regardless, My Life serves as a terrific introduction to an improbable star whose success is born more from his talent rather than from gimmickry.
My Life is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box