Eddie Vedder Breaks New Ground with ‘Ukulele Songs’, Proves Don Ho May Have Been on to Something

The Ed and the Flow

By Kevin Graff

Not much about Eddie Vedder should surprise you. He’s eclectic. Personal. Soft –spoken (while not “screaming hello”). Sometimes cryptic. Always searching for something bigger. An all around artist. Sculpting with typewriter keys. Sculpting with words. An album of Ukulele Songs? You’re surprised? Don’t be.

Eddie tells of seeing a naïve and happy little instrument, and thinking to himself… “I can make that sound sad”. And even though he smirks while saying it, inside his mysterious briefcase of lyrics and stickers, you just know there’s some truth to it.

As a Pearl Jam fan, I fear this little blurb is going to come off as highly biased, but I’ll try my best to remain impartial.

A far cry from ANY Pearl Jam album, and just a hop and skip away from his “Into The Wild” soundtrack, “Ukulele Songs” is another example of Vedder’s versatility. His charm. His surfer’s whimsy. His talent. His love of music.

The album opens with a well known Pearl Jam tune, Can’t Keep.  Not only does it translate well, it does one better than that. It doesn’t fall into the realm of  cover-band syndrome. I find myself watching cover bands celebrate how close they can sound to the original; to the album version. There’s very little artistry, musicianship or excitement in that.”Ukulele Songs”  version of  Can’t Keep doesn’t do that. I can throw Riot Act  into my CD player (yeah kids… CD’s) and listen to Can’t Keep any time I want. Now I can throw “Ukulele Songs” in, and do the same. But guess what. It’s not the same song. It s a new take on an old thought. A new view of an old landscape. A new offering of an old gift.

I promise I won’t go off about all sixteen songs. Just a few more. I’ll leave the rest up to you. I trust you, and what I think really shouldn’t matter anyway, right?

Sleeping By Myself.  Something about heartbreaking words with a jaunty North Shore uke tune explains exactly what Eddie must’ve meant about turning a naïve and happy little instrument into something sad and lonely. There’s very little that’s altogether uplifting about this song about losing someone you love. There’s no “Fuck You I’m still Alive”, or “I Am Mine”… that said,  it’s flat out gorgeous. It’s actually the truth about losing someone you love. Or like a little. Or had a crush on. Or thought you could count on. When Eddie’s being honest (which, let’s face it, is most times) I find he pulls more out of me than I’m sometimes able to pull from myself.

I’m sure many of you caught Eddie on Letterman recently playing Without You. With his ukulele adorned with Clarence (an homage to the late Clarence Clemons), Eddie paddled through a song that is slightly more reminiscent to his earlier work, you aren’t left wanting anything more from this track. “I’ll keep on healin’ all the scars, that we’ve collected from the stars. I’d rather this than live without you”.

Throughout this album Eddie shows you that whether he’s pouring his lungs out with Jeff, Stone, Mike, Matt and Boom, or softly pouring his heart out over a ukulele, his versatility, sustainability, and humanity will not likely be matched. S’just me I suppose, but I’m glad I’m part of the Eddie Vedder generation.

Can’t Keep, from ‘Ukulele Songs’

Follow Kevin on Twitter at @YLedbet (he told you he was a Pearl Jam fan…).

About Jay Moon

Freelance writer guy. My ears love music. I'm a transplant recipient (October/2015), so I also give talks to the masses about that entire experience.

Posted on July 11, 2011, in Music and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I got this album a few weeks ago, and I will admit that it is a bit of an acquired taste.
    I will like it, but then half way through, I’ll need a break from the mellow-ness of the album.
    But still, I give Vedder all the credit in the world for attempting this project.

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