Monday, August 24, 2009

Poppa’s got a brand new...ukulele?!

Seems like I have an extraordinary number of friends playing the ukulele these days. Been talking to my friend Molly Felder about the ins and outs of ukulele ownership for a while now. Vintage vs. new, that kind of thing. She and Bill both play them with Swan Dive. David Mead, Daniel Tashian, Bill Steber, Brad Jones, Lex Price, I can't remember how many other music friends in Nashville are in the larger ukulele community.

It was a serious instrument in the earlier part of the 20th c., but then people started bringing crappy souvenir-models back from their Pacific vacations. Apparently some of those earlier crappy ones are quite valuable in collector circles these days. Who'da thunk? Now there’s that amazing Jake Shimabukuro, stunning people with what can be done with solo uke. I figure a couple of weeks of practice I should be able to do something like his version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” : )

There are also some great guys I found on youTube a while back doing a freaky-good ukulele+synthesizer version of Tubeway Army’s “Are Friends Electric?”—a song I only knew because Robyn Hitchcock did a cover version of it a few years back. Gary Numan meets the ukulele!? Marriage, or train wreck? I personally love it.

My buddy Ted Nunes and his lovely bride Carrie met me over at the Guitar Center at 100 Oaks, to help look over and play some ukes, perchance to purchase. Ted’s in a group called the Ukedelics. I was thinking about spending maybe $100 bucks or so. Got Ted to play several, check out the sound, because he can actually play the thing...I just want to learn. So natch, I fall in love with the most expensive, loveliest one they have. Budget, schmudget. And Carrie was sympathetic to my penchant for the aesthetic over the practical, being a talented jewelry designer and aesthete herself. Pix of the baby below!

She’s spalted koa wood. Has beautiful purfling (wink, wink, knowwhatimean?), actually it’s the binding around the edge of the body, which is abalone, as is the name on the head. OK, maybe it’s fake abalone, I wouldn’t know the diff, but it looks lovely. They didn’t have cases OR gig bags that worked, so I’m carrying her around in the original cardboard shipping box, like a guy off the Greyhound in Nashville. Hell, she don’t mind...the girl knows I love her. She’ll have a case as lovely as she is, one day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hunter Mann, the man with the van.

In the tradition of nearly inexplicable crossroads-of-the-world things that occasionally happen here in New Harmony...last week my friend Caroline called and said “Hey, there’s this guy with this great art car downtown, I think he’s leaving in five minutes, you’ve got to come now!”

People were gathering like ants at a picnic to gape at Hunter’s amazing van, an item inherited from his Godfather, who had riveted brass objects of every description to it for 22 years. I think he told me it weighed in at around 10 thousand pounds! People kept coming, and kept staying. He wasn’t able to leave as quickly as hoped and ended up staying the night in town. From what I gathered, he’d been in Baltimore and other points east for a variety of events and was heading back west, going to do an NPR interview in St Louis the next day, and just stopped in N.H. after pulling over at the Harmonie State Park for a swim.

I mentioned Wild Wheels, an art car documentary I’d always liked, and it turns out that he had actually worked on the film, with Les Blank’s son Harrod (an early proponent/promoter of the art car). And they have a new one out called Automorphosis, that’s on the film festival circuit right now.

Hunter lives out somewhere near the convergence of New Mexico, Arizona, and México, where they seem to have lots of film stuff going on, and also sounded like there is an Art Car Museum in the works out there. Some pictures below. The van is something that you could look over for hours and not really discover everything....but I gave it a shot. A small good thing.