Out Tuesday: Eddie Vedder keeps matters simple on new disc Ukulele Songs

Ukulele Songs (album cover)

Eddie Vedder

Ukulele Songs

(Monkeywrench Records)

Release date: May 31, 2011

Though four years have passed since the release of his last solo album, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder has yet to stray far from the rootsy appeal that made his contributions to the soundtrack for the 2007 film Into the Wild so successful.

In fact, with his latest record Vedder has now seemingly stripped his sound down even further for an entire disc’s worth of original compositions and covers performed solely on a single instrument. And what instrument is that you ask? An acoustic guitar? Or maybe a piano? No, the answer this time is a ukulele. Yes, you read that word correctly. The iconic singer, who once belted out the haunting rocker “Jeremy” and hurled himself from unimaginable heights to surf the crowds below him, has completed his latest work using the same tool that brought Tiny Tim international fame and fortune. Yet, unseemly coincidences aside, the results are still undeniable.

Interestingly, the only nod to his more rocking side that Vedder makes at all on Ukulele Songs is in his choice of album opener. “Can’t Keep” the first track on PJ’s 2002 record Riot Act is re-imagined here in even sparser fashion with no other accompaniment to Vedder’s voice than his simple strumming. While a fitting introduction, the tune only hints at the charms of the record still to come.

Watch the video for the first single from Ukulele Songs “Longing to Belong” here:

For example, a particular highlight is the appearance of Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power), who shows up to duet with Vedder on the classic ballad “Tonight You Belong to Me.” The pair’s voices mesh flawlessly on the track, and at times even manage to conjure up some of that old Tin Pan Alley magic where the song has its roots. Elsewhere, Glen Hansard of Once fame joins the action for the relatively more modern “Sleepless Nights,” which was first written in 1960. Hansard will be a featured guest on Vedder’s tour behind the new record, and if his vocals here are any indication audience members should be in store for a nightly treat from the Irish musician.

Though some fans may quibble over the length of certain numbers (the longest song comes in at three minutes and 23 seconds and the album itself is over in little more than half an hour) or the fact that there is so little variation from song to song, the task remains difficult to criticize Vedder for his unique vision. With a name like Ukulele Songs, record buyers are getting exactly what they’re paying for. Obviously, the former grunge star hasn’t made such an intimate-sounding record to sell millions. He gave up that exercise years ago, and instead has turned to using his brooding baritone to voice matters closer to his heart. Consequently, for those seeking some soothing music to relax to after catching an afternoon’s worth of waves the results couldn’t be more perfect.

For more information on Eddie Vedder or to see the dates for his already sold-out solo tour please visit http://www.pearljam.com. Also, be sure to pick up the DVD featuring live concert performances from Vedder’s first-ever solo outing entitled “Water on the Road,” which comes out the same day as “Ukulele Songs” (May 31).

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In other news, while we may have craftily dodged the apocalypse a week ago, the footage caught in this video proves that the four horsemen are still out there plotting a particularly gruesome finale for our end of days. Scary.

Author: Michael Cimaomo

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