By Gail Reynolds, Rock At Night Columnist
Hey, blues lovers, if you haven’t heard Manitoba Hal, give him a listen, and you’ll see why Hal Brolund has earned international acclaim as the world’s top ukulele bluesman. Yes, ukulele! If you are not familiar with how far the once denigrated four stringed island instrument has become, all the more reason you should hear this phenomenal musician.
As a uke enthusiast myself, I once bristled when people intended to compliment musicians by saying they made the uke sound “just like a guitar.” However, Brolund’s blues often evokes that same response. He does it all, including Delta slide.
The relationship between the six and four stringed instruments was natural for Brolund, as he played the guitar professionally for about 10 years when he began to incorporate the uke in his performances until the uke overtook completely.
Recently he performed and presented workshops at the Tampa Bay Ukulele Getaway where I had a chance to talk with him. I was impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, musical and otherwise, and his sensitivity to the evolution of musical trends, all of which contribute to the depth and uniqueness of his music.
His website generously offers audio samples of his five CDs, all of which feature a mix of the classic blues of the likes of Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson, as well as original tunes that showcase his eloquence and creativity. Furthermore, cuts are perfectly arranged to incorporate great supporting musicians and his authentic vocal talent. Check it out for yourself:
In January his sixth CD, Live In Ghent, will be available. I was fortunate to obtain an advance copy, so I will have more to say about it upon its release.
Hal Brolund is as superb a teacher as he is an artist. In addition to his workshops, he has YouTube instructional videos, and for the more committed students, offers Patreon subscriptions. In our chat he mentioned that it was through the ukulele that he internalized music theory. So he has much to offer all levels of students.
Listeners and students alike will appreciate what Manitoba Hal has to offer. It was hard to choose from his many YouTube videos, but I decided on his “Baby Please Don’t Go” because it features his conjoined concert and tenor custom ukulele with informative annotations. As indicated above, this is not my last word on Manitoba Hal. Stay tuned for more next month.
- Album Review: Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel’s ‘Christmas Island’ - December 19, 2019
- Free For All: community supported high quality music - September 29, 2019
- Album Review: John Prine’s ‘The Tree of Forgiveness’ - February 9, 2019