I love ukulele orchestras.
The sound of a single uke can be sublimely beautiful or twee and plinking, it’s much more versatile than people give it credit for being. (It seems that Jake Shimabukuro’s helping to change that somewhat, although I still love the uke primarily as a rhythm instrument.)
The sound of a single uke can evoke a lot, and be pretty amazing. But there’s nothing in the world quite like the sound of, say, fifty ukuleles, playing as one. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are becoming minor Youtube celebrities, and I can see why. They’re a little stiff and droll for me, though. I have to say, I prefer the raw fun of The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra— who can be heard here in a rousing rendition of Outcast’s “Hey Ya.”
Well, a band that’s already been in pretty frequent rotation on my iTunes just came out with a new song featuring a ukulele orchestra. Needless to say, I’m jazzed.
The band is the Bastard Fairies, a group I often explain to my friends as “LA’s answer to the Dresden Dolls.” Like the Dresden Dolls, they’re a male-female two-piece, heavy on the theatricality, childlike music, and dark themes. But where Amanda Palmer is a bit of the waifish Victorian china doll, the Bastard Fairies’ singer, Yellow Thunder Woman, is the Native American answer to Betty Page. Where the Dolls seem to draw inspiration from Weimar Republic Caberets, the Fairies prefer punk rock, regressed to childhood. Nursery rhymes about sex, death, and beer.
What drew my attention to the Bastard Fairies wasn’t actually their music– it was their delivery system. These guys were ahead of Chris Anderson in the belief that the future of business is free.
The then-unsigned band elected to make their excellent debut album, Momento Mori, freely available for download, and then look for someone to distribute them. A lot of people, myself included, downloaded the album out of sheer curiosity. The album got picked up by Adrenaline Music, the download page went away, and the CD was released with additional tracks. It can be even be purchased now on Amazon. Go pick up a copy– it’s worth it.
Anyway, I’ve been listening a lot to this new uke orchestra Bastard Fairies track.
Allow me to introduce the Bastard Fairies’ cover of Melanie Safka’s “Brand New Key”, featuring the Uncle Lincoln Ukulele Club: