Do you know what the most commonly heard phrase was at GNUF 2017? You could hear it whispered around every corner, the bar was awash with it, the courtyard echoing the same sentiment, for no matter who you bumped into the conversation always started the same way…
Did you see Amelia?
Just as a sideline to that, before I plunge into “Nuke” and start ranting BUY IT as passionately as possible, isn’t it interesting and indeed indicative of the ukulele world and family we all immediately referred to this artist by her first name. We’ve never met yet we’re all on friendly terms. At a festival celebrating any other instrument it would have been “Amelia Coburn” but there’s a natural assumption isn’t there, we all play the ukulele so we’re bound to get on famously, we’ll just skip the formalities. It is oh so sweet and frankly a tribute to you all!
Amelia is a Radio 2 Young Folk Award Nominee (2017) and Nottingham student who, almost casually, performs cover versions of some terrific songs spanning mostly the 70’s and 80’s. A charming Northern lilt projected through a sensational unique voice atop some almost punk like strumming with stops, picks and sustain popped in at the perfect moment every time. Since Nuke there have been other releases, self penned songs and a little more orchestration. But solo cover versions were the driving force that stopped the GNUF audience in their orderly seated tracks therefore that’s the album I’ve focused on. Believe me, this lady can also write a song but we’ll save that for another time.
And so an almost shy wee girl took centre stage with a bashful glow. The very second she began to perform she transformed into a giant, a seasoned professional with the audience gripped to every single note. The flair and passion of Kate Bush, her eyes piercing straight through your soul and out of the other side with a twang of Arctic Monkeys echoing in her delivery. Honestly, I have never witnessed such a memorising performance.
It was Life On Mars that cemented Amelia’s place in the GNUF hall of fame, of course a poignant choice giving the recent passing of a legend like no other, and it closes the album beautifully. But each and every song in this collection delivers its own twist and enthrals, much of them a road trip through England to dip into music scenes sadly now watered down to a mild shandy of what they were. There are tracks from Manchester with The Stone Roses and The Smiths, a trip down the M62 to Leeds for The Wedding Present, heck this is already sounding like my perfect mix tape. We nip over to Sheffield to check out The Human League before heading down the M1 to Coventry for The Specials and moving further South to hang out with The Jam in London, naturally Down In The Tube Station At Midnight. How wonderful then and indeed personally gratifying to see this music resurrected in such a powerful, exciting and different way by such a young artist.
Add in Blondie, Lou Reed, The Kinks and Elton John to name others and you’re getting one heck of a line-up perhaps crowned with an inevitable but no less hair-raising tribute to Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Each original song a classic, each given the Amelia treatment using nothing more than a ukulele and vocal to take them somewhere intriguingly fresh.
We all play cover versions, it is perhaps what has driven the ukulele uprising, the relatively easy way anyone can grab a uke and strum out the songs they loved as a teenager. How then can this album be so good? What makes it so special for it is genuinely the finest collection of ukulele covers I have ever or indeed would ever wish to hear? Each song is an immaculate choice, effortlessly skinned down to its raw elements augmented to the heavens and back by Amelia’s astounding voice and I can only put it down to true instinctive talent and exuberant sparkle.