Archive | May, 2018

Christopher Davis-Shannon

Christopher Davis-Shannon’s music is the essence of honest simplicity. Bringing together influence ranging from Fats Waller to Chet Baker, he creates an atmosphere that will instantly transport you back to jazz clubs, and speakeasies of the early 20th century. Not Content being labelled a traditionalist, he forges ahead breathing new life into old classics, weaving together a sound that is enjoyed by both young and old.

As a multi-Instrumentalist, songwriter, and educator, based in Philadelphia, Davis-Shannon maintains a steady tour schedule with his own music as well as a sideman for various acts. He brings to the stage not just the pure joy of music, but a vast knowledge of the history behind the songs that he holds close to his heart. His intricate instrumental work and plaintive vocals are infused with soulfulness which cannot be faked, and a respect for his predecessors which is rarely equaled.

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Writing Lyrics for original songs

As well as running the OUS platform, I am in two bands “The Small Change Diaries” and more recently “Nick Cody and The Caravan of Dreams” To date I have written 35 original songs, 25 with The Small Change Diaries and 10 with The Caravan of Dreams.

I remain fascinated by the writing process and my favorite artists all paid great attention to the lyrical content of their songs. When I hear music these days, I always think to myself “Would I be happy having written that?” Often lyrically much of what I hear would only be the first draft. I confess to being a fan of dark and often sad songs that talk about human relationships and behaviors. My favorite albums include “Blood on the Tracks” “Hejira” and “Nebraska” I’m also a big Richard Thompson fan, so my tastes are not exactly mainstream cheery music!

Often songs will be inspired by people I meet and or observations of human behavior. With The Small Change Diaries, examples include “Hey Rona”, “We’ll draw you out” and “Birdman” In all these instances I found that the best way to write was to allow ideas to simply flow and later wonder about editing. Often I’ll have notes scribbled on random bits of paper, and if I have one to hand, one of my moleskin diaries. I then transfer everything to my laptop and always back everything up in two locations for safety purposes. Sometimes I feel that songs are just nagging to get written and to be recorded. I always feel a huge psychological relief once a song is recorded, mixed and mastered. It’s as if the plan has finally landed!

I am lucky to be working with some amazing musicians and these folks often bring new ideas to the song’s arrangements. The first Caravan of Dreams album is much darker than anything I have done with The Small Change Diaries and I’m really pleased with what we have to date. All the songs are written on the ukulele, but the material is not all based around the ukulele. Its far more diverse and I am using a really diverse range of musicians. Some of the progress of the new album is detailed on www.nickcody.com for those interested

The BIG project that will launch in 2019 will be much more extensive than OUS and will be of great interest to those who have a great love of music.

 

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Faster Than Sane (Liz Singer)

Liz Singer has been writing and recording original music under the name Faster Than Sane since 2010. Her thoughtful acoustic songs are a mix of ukulele and guitar tracks, with honest, reflective lyrics that strive to connect with others’ experiences. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Liz is currently in New Zealand playing around Auckland whenever possible, and has also performed with the Mighty Ukes of Wellington and the ukulele trio, HoopLAH.

Links:
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXcPpit1y7Pq2Gxx14eD-5Q/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lizisfasterthansane/

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Unexpected Ukulele Songs

My name is Derek Reynolds and I live in Portland OR. I have just released an album based on the premise that the uke is a valid singer-songwriter instrument that could be given more respect and used much more adventurously than it is. Not a toy, not a gimmick but an amazing freeing songwriter’s tool. Eddie Vedder, Florence Welch, Bruno Mars, Vance Joy, Kimie Miner, Train… etc there are so many great examples of people writing great songs on the ukulele and I get frustrated by the standard pyrotechnics, overly mellow cover versions or silly songs that tend to be the mainstay of ukulele artists. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I am definitely trying to go the other way.

Here is my standard bio:
I have been a professional bass player and songwriter since I was 14 playing in the Midwest, Los Angeles and finally Portland. Along the way I have done Alt Rock, World Beat, Pop, Reggae, R&B, Funk, Jazz, even a little Metal and Country but it was always a group experience and I was always the bass player holding down the groove, I was comfortable there. But after my last couple of bands had annoying negative endings I decided it was too much hassle (and time) and retired to the daily grind and adventuring with my wife. Within a year I was jonesing for a musical outlet and had the idea to buy a cheap ukulele and learn That’s All (cheesy I know) for my wife to be played during our 18th anniversary adventure trip. By the time we went I knew 12 songs. A year later I wrote 2 songs for our anniversary and started playing open mics. The rest is future history as I push the musical boundaries of the ukulele and try to forge a new path. I bring all of my influences into the music I’m writing and my new originals are some of the best songs I’ve ever written. They never fail to entertain or surprise people as well as the eclectic covers I take on. So follow along and see where it all goes… cause I have no idea.

Reference material?
Album
https://derek.bandcamp.com/releases
Website
https://unexpected-ukulele.weebly.com/
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/unexpectedukulele/

Hope that was too much info. 🙂

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Tom Griffin

Tom Griffin is an Oxford-based singer songwriter of his own self-styled “Urban Folk-Blues”. Tom’s main influences range from the Delta, Ragtime, Hokum and Piedmont Blues, to artists such as Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Civl Wars and Lead Belly. Through Tom’s fascination in the history steeped in music dating back to the turn of the twentieth century, he began listening to early-blues ukulele players such as Joe Linthecome, Rabbit Muse and Roy Smeck. Tom has found a love for the ukulele and it has now become a staple and popular part of his live repertoire. “When the Dust Settles”, Tom’s first originally written ukulele song is an instrumental piece which he recorded at home and has released as a free download on his website, tomgriffinmusic.com.

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OUS Misconceptions and inspirations

I created the OUS platform two and a half years ago to see who was out there creating original music based around ukuleles. Personally, I have never been a fan of the stereotypical comedy image of ukulele and my idea of hell is artists playing endless cover versions of Bowie, The Cure, and The Smiths. I, however, appreciate that I may be in a minority considering the enthusiasm that such material receives online where all too often such attempts are described as “awesome” and “brilliant” Personally I reserve such superlatives for people I consider to be truly excellent artists including Bob Dylan (on a good day), Neil Young and Glen Hansard.

The Original OUS statement

The front page of the site has always contained the following public statement

“Let me also be 100% clear, I love cover versions, especially when they are done with a twist, bringing new perspectives to the song with different interpretations, and of course traditional and folk songs which are no longer associated with an individual but live in their own right. However, I love it far more when songwriters create original material. This site is a platform for original ukulele-based songs and is unique in that it brings together ukulele artists from all over the globe. This site is not run for any commercial interests and there’s no paid advertising here. This removes any favoritism and commercial bias, so this platform is only to promote the love of original music.”

Despite this clear statement, almost three years on I still receive the “You hate covers” nonsense comments. In a social media era it seems that this “us or them” mindset is increasingly common and of course supremely daft. The reality is that there have been many superb cover versions from artists, but there have also been many very average attempts. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but without original songwriting, there would be no cover versions. I realize I have unintentionally stirred up a lot of the old ukulele guard and this has resulted in a few tantrums online, but IMO that’s often no bad thing as it provokes discussion and debate.

Inspirations

In the last two years, the OUS FB page and this main site have been truly inspirational and I have been blown away by the quality of many of the original songs. I appreciate that the ukulele world is a niche musical genre and most of what I see and hear is not original music. Fortunately, artists like Victoria Vox, James Hill, Manitoba Hall, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers, Danielle Ate the Sandwich and my own band The Small Change Diaries are all looking to push the boundaries of ukulele-based music. It’s not to everybody’s taste of course, but personally, such artists give me some hope that we can show the wider public that the ukulele is an extraordinary instrument that can be used as an excellent creative musical tool. Artists like Eddie Vedder, George Harrison and Elvis Costello have also embraced the mighty uke to create some superb songs.

I passionately believe that the world is a better place for artists creating new music and I applaud anyone doing this. OUS remains an oasis for such material and in 2019 I will be unveiling a much bigger platform also dedicated to the love of music.

 

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Sot Otter (Shrew)

 

Based in the Highlands of Scotland, singer/songwriter Sot Otter. Joins with shrewsister Anne Wood to form Shrew.
To join our mailing list or for details of Shrew gig dates, email us at contactshrew@gmail.com or find us on Facebook @shrewmusic

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