Album review: Eddie Vedder's 'Ukulele Songs'
Eddie Vedder has said this solo outing began with no intention of the music going public, and there’s no reason to doubt him. A solo ukulele record from the leader of Pearl Jam, one of the great alt-rock bands of the last quarter century, doesn’t exactly brim with marketing potential.
The narrow musical scope carries with it both freedom and isolation, qualities particularly suited to Vedder’s temperament. The nakedness of the sonic palette — this is truly folk chamber music — also leaves him emotionally exposed, lending considerable power to songs of separation (“Sleeping by Myself”), alienation (“Can’t Keep”), romantic yearning (“Longing to Belong”) and vulnerability (“Broken Heart,” “Once in a While”). The instrument’s intrinsic sweetness seems to head off any inclination to succumb to despair, and contrasts evocatively with his sandpapery, quavery vocals.
He complements a dozen originals with outside material mostly from the ukulele’s heyday in the early 20th century (“Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Tonight You Belong to Me,” “More Than You Know”), helping his own songs cast a longer shadow. Who knows? Perhaps this experiment will inspire him to take on that last bastion of uncharted rock-star territory: Accordion Anthems.
Three stars (Out of four stars)
-- Randy Lewis