Well bless my barnacles, what a simply delightful collection of songs! I wouldn’t normally wade into a review which such a brazen endorsement but on the very first listen I was genuinely taken aback and had to stop what I was doing and let the music carry me for 18 minutes.
Ooty & The Cloud are a band formed off the back of the Chester Ukulele Players with the intent to retreat from the conventional uptempo strum and create their own laid back style using a palette of male vocals, female harmonies, ukuleles in all sizes, some whistles, a harmonium and the few shaky things. A few years later and after many a performance at various ukulele festivals including GNUF and the Summer Strum, Stephen, Sally and Rekha have matured into a CD format with their debut recording, “Sazerac”. For those with a leaning to teetotalism, a Sazerac is a whisky based cocktail allegedly favoured by vocalist Stephen and one would assume this allegiance could be tested by simply buying him one if you see him stood at the bar and gauging his reaction.
The CD proffers six wide ranging tracks split down the middle between original compositions and cover versions. Actually to use that phrase is an injustice, they are interpretations of songs by other writers for there is a great deal of thought and originality that has gone into each that transcends a mere ukulele version.
El Matador sets us off with a relatively mellow version of The Kingston Trio tune carried along by a chunky strum and castanets. The second and third songs are original tracks written by vocalist Stephen Fowler, the first of which, Not Here With Me, has a strong traditional folk feel layered by pretty ukulele picking, soft engaging fluting melodies, ever so sweet harmonies and a simple yet ridiculously effective off beat percussive tap. Concert and Tenor player Sally Davies then takes on song-writing duties with track four titled This Moment, an enchanting waltz drenched in wonderfully penned chord progressions. Tracks five and six are written by Hazel O’Connor and Leonard Cohen respectively, each given the “Ooty-treatment” characterising each song with their highly likeable delicate persona.
I am already extremely fond of this little gem and have no doubt I will revisit it on many an occasion when looking for a relaxing 20 minute escape via my headphones. Every song has a different tone yet all are characteristic of the band’s recognisable approach awash with a tender soul and gentle heart.