The names of Messers Doleman and Emmerson are a common sight on many a ukulele festival bill poster. Both excellent ukulele players, they form a complimentary partnership that has been a driving force behind the meteoric enthusiasm that has bolstered the recent interest in the instrument we all love.
As comfortable with six strings as he is with four, Ian Emmerson has on many occasion liberated shock from a ukulele audience by infusing some guitar into the mix whilst Phil Doleman masterfully keeps the ukulele centre stage. This is something which I truly believe, or at least hope, even the most hardened ukulele devotee can appreciate adds a whole new tonal blend to duo. Speaking personally I’m always smiling when I see the ukulele united with other instruments to create rich and interesting music like a proud parent seeing his favourite little puppy all grown up.
And so it is an utter treat to see the two artists together again with a six track EP of vintage jazz infused blues numbers split across ukulele and tenor banjo (Phil Doleman) and acoustic guitar (Ian Emmerson), lead vocals erupting from Phil whilst Ian adds a prosperous layer of harmonies.
To embellish both the traditional style of the chosen material and the irrefutable skill of both players, each track was recorded in front of one microphone with no hint of editing or other 21st century wizardry. This technique proved a triumphant success in producing an animated spark to the performance forging a recording that’s as close as you are going to get to seeing the pair live without the need to leave the room.
The chosen tracks come from some true blues greats with the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, Tom Dorsey and Louis Armstrong. With such a line-up of material one hopes to hear some real gritty spirit coming through and indeed every track is given the earthy honesty they deserve. Ian’s lusciously thick and choppy guitar parts add both a solid rhythm and a chunky footing for Phil’s picking whether it be on the banjo or ukulele. In fact, the timbre is so precisely fused it’s quite stunning this was achieved with a one take microphone technique, compliment indeed to the live musical abilities and professional ear of these two talented gentleman. Whether it be instrument or voice, together they form the perfect phonic union.
Packing more gravel than you’ll find at the bottom of a fish tank into his powerful blues voice, it really is a great pleasure to see the UK’s ukulele maestro back with his musical sparring partner and in fine form with it!
Head over to Phil’s website where you can read all about him and of course purchase the EP, an act to be encouraged! You’ll also find him on Facebook & Twitter. Ian Emmerson on the the other hand can be found right here.