I assume and would certainly hope that the majority of people reading this are familiar with the name Krabbers, The Hedge Inspectors and Unplugthewood. Mike and his wife Caroline have been champions on the UK scene for more years than it would be polite to mention. Donating time and skill into acoustic music and bringing pleasure to listeners and performers alike they joyfully raise a few shackles for charity as they do so. If you peep behind this generous and active curtain you’ll find Mike Hayllor the man, not only a great performer but a prolific and talented songwriter. The guy knows his way around a tune!
Step up then AndyDan and Simon Taylor who between them started networking at festivals and spending far too much time on Facebook putting together a compilation album of some of Krabbers’ greatest tracks interpreted and recorded by some of the best ukulele artists in the UK. British cancer support charities are the benefactors of every profitable penny so even without review please go and buy the album to support this deserving cause and remember the many hours the writer, contributors and performers have put in to make “Re-Owned” happen.
Have you done that? Bravo you! Let us then continue and delve in the music a little…
The first thing that strikes me is the diversity of the CD. Clearly with varying artists ranging from the uptempo pop of Plastic Jeezus, the bass thumping blues or Dead Mans Uke, the classical boundary pushing pizzazz of Opera-lele to the synthetic sounds of AndyDan we’re always going to hear a wide assortment of orchestration. But the songs too are a cascade of moods, textures and tone and each artist finds a way in through the backdoor of their given song straight to the nuance that givers Krabbers’ his style. Each, of course, weave their signature sound into the performance but you still hear the song writing essence every time which is tribute indeed to the songwriter’s competence and dexterity.
The colours each of the 14 tracks unleash are quite the rainbow, the optimistic foot tapping Big Storm a great opener followed up by some wonderful blues fiddle playing on Ukulele Underground. These songs are utter crowd pleasers with jubilant upbeat tempos with a certain dalliance into silliness with Hedgehog Poo, a song that tells you all with its title. Catch Of The Day leads Phil Doleman down a path tantalisingly close to Gentleman Rhyming while Songs Of Praise provides a Lancashire round or two of reggae and Dire Straits sandwiches. The light side of the album in this humble reviewers opinion peaks in the form of Angry Bees, a heavy Welsh accent melded to a Russian beat, the sampled theme from the Gameboy version of Tetris playing us in. You crazy cats.
This is where reviewing compilation albums such as this becomes tricky as there is always going to be a conflict of character with the more subdued side to the album. Gleefully this never feels like an issue here. One can always feel Krabbers’ guiding hand behind the flow which helps the diversity hold together. Krabbers can be fun, but Krabbers can also write a tune that tugs at your soul.
And so there are a number of gentler songs; songs to stop and listen, consume and digest. Acts such as Astraluna and Zoë Bestel look a little deeper into the hedgerow to see what’s inside stamping their unique and original tone firmly on Krabbers’ more studious temperament. Stars Will Guide Our Way featuring George Bartle, Mandi Harkett AND Tricity Vogue is also something a little special, one beautiful song with some deliriously delightful harmonies. Well, we’d expect nothing less from those guys would we. A tearful Pre-Owned and The Space Between You And Me are also perfectly performed, introspective notions a billion miles from the more distasteful discharge of woodland creatures.
As you will have deduced I have a lot of time for the song writing skill of Krabbers and when you look at the lineup of artists on the album, well in all honesty it would be pretty hard to miss the bullseye. Setting the charity side, well aside, this is a great compilation of tunes showcasing some wonderful performers while competently saluting both sides of Krabbers’ songwriting hedge. Both the chirpy songs and the reflective songs are utter winners and a great accolade to the talents the UK has to offer. With the cherry that we’re all raising money for cancer support perched thoughtfully on top there isn’t a single reason not to applaud enthusiastically and get out your credit card.
A Note From The Editor
It is with a large slice of pride I look at the artists on this album and realise that nearly all of them have featured on Uke Planet before. So it would be remiss of me not to put in a few links to previous reviews from these fabulous artists. Go forth and spend money… Plastic Jeezus, Zoë Bestel, Phil Doleman, The Mersey Belles, Ooty & The Cloud, Chonkinfeckle, Izzy B, Andydan, The League Of Ukulele Gentleman & Astraluna.