Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Manitoba Hal goes Flirting with Mermaids - Review

Knowing that I like folky styles and have a bit of a leaning towards blues, a kind soul pointed me in the direction of Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund. Boy, am I glad he did!

Of the ukulele, Hal says “People often think of the ukulele as a happy instrument and they're not wrong, but it is also capable of delivering the mojo that makes the blues so interesting”.

I've been listening to Hal's latest album, "Flirting with Mermaids" - and listening to it again - and again. This man, an accomplished guitarist, songwriter and ukulele player, has talent to be reckoned with. The album combines original songs with traditional blues songs and creates a musical journey of unexpected twists and turns of mood and style that just has to be repeated.

Hal says of this album "Imagine the blues meeting the Acadian shore in a seaside carnival of snake oil salesmen, tattooed women and mermaids! Carney's stealing the gate receipts share space with fast food vendors and various hucksters. There are all types here. The bluesmen, the lovers and the hungry.

Before you ask, yes this record was recorded with the ukulele in the main performance roles of every song save two. Every solo that you might think is an electric guitar is a ukulele, most of the organ sounds on this record are a ukulele. Heck even some of the percussion is performed on a ukulele. My goal was to create a record that was fun to listen to, that told a story and didn't require you to be a fan of ukulele to enjoy."

I had never heard Hal's music before, and the first track was a real delight, a whimsical and droll conjuring up of mermaids, with a folky fingerstyle ukulele.

The mood moves to folk-rock, with the ukulele played clawhammer style if I'm not much mistaken, then shifts to a very bluesy number. Another musical shift to cajun-style, and then to real heart-rending blues pleading in "Turn Out the Lights".

The blues standards are not neglected, and are given a first-class treatment - "Baby Please Don't Go" and later on, "16 Tons".

Right through to the end of the album, the dance rhythms of - Louisiana? - I'm guessing - are interspersed with Gospel sounds and then deep, deep blues - to end the album with "The Thrill is Gone", a no-holds-barred blues to wrench the soul and think yes, the thrill of this album is over - better play it again.

If you like folky styles, finger-picking, jumpin' cajun-style music and the bluesiest blues you ever heard - Manitoba Hal's your man.

Go Flirting with Mermaids!

PS 2nd July...

One of my fave ukulele blogs Got A Ukulele has just reviewed Flirting With Mermaids; each song in detail! If you like what you've read so far, read it here!


  1. Good review and thanks for the link to mine!


    1. Thank you very much! As for the link, my pleasure!


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