Thursday, November 14, 2019

Lil Rev's 2020 Florida WinterUke Tour

                                           Lil Rev announces "killer" Florida Uke Tour 2020

                           Lil Rev will be touring Florida in late January and into February 2020

                                       Classes and Concert info @
                              -Lil Rev will make a stop at the Brown County Uke Fest in Nashville, IN
                              en route to his FL tour. He'll be vending and teaching harmonica

                                      1/28/2020      Citrus Park, FL {Class and concert}
                                      1/31/2020      The Rhythm Inlet, Nokomis, FL
                                      2/1/2020 World Ukulele Day    Dunedin, FL
                                      2/3/2020 Valencia Lakes Heritage Club {concert}
                                      2/4/2020 Penny Lane Music Emporium -Intro to Harmonica Class
                                      2/6/2020 Penny Lane Music Emporium- Triplets Made Easy Class
                                      2/8/2020 Florida State Fair   Ukeapolooza
                                      2/12/2020 Boynton Uke Society - Workshop
                                      2/13/2020 Boynton Uke Society - Concert
                                      2/15/2020  TBA ....and more shows being added.

                             Lil Rev's FL tour will offer a variety of ukulele and harmonica classes
                  as well as a host of concerts on uke, harmonica, tenor guitar, banjo, dulcimer and
                  more. check his website.  for more details.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ben Carr's New CD: A River's View of Sunrise

On Meeting Ben Carr...
When i first met Ben Carr a few years back, i was immediately impressed
with his style and humble demeanor. He had just finished a really cool set of 
instrumentals that ran the gamut from down-home fiddle tune-esq, to finger picking 
bluesy stuff as well as highly percussive-alternate tuned, groove based jams.

It was obvious to me that Ben had a very wide range of influences and the 
sincerity of his approach came off as very authentic at time when 10,000 guitar 
inspired posers are plying their trade on the ukulele. 

A Wee Bit About This Lad...
Ben grew up in the farm-laden, Philadelphia suburbs
blowing an alto-sax, which was soon supplanted by
bongos and a full drum set.

After stints in numerous east coast bands and a foray
into full-time music hood a la New Orleans, Ben
finally relocated to Southern Vermont where he currently resides with his family.

As a certified graduate of James Hill's Ukulele Initiative,
Ben is presently a full time ukulele instructor, recording
artist and performer. His commitment and love of music
finds him teaching both privately and in schools. 
To learn more about Ben Carr visit: 
Let me digress for a moment here....
As Ben and i talked and got to know each
other a bit, i thought he'd be a great artist to
bring to Wisconsin for our Ukulele festival,
so he sent me home with some of his music
and that's when it really dawned on me that
more folks in the ukulele stratosphere need
to hear Ben Carr.

If the ukulele world is going to grow, prosper, inspire our youth and morph into a sustainable community, ukulele camps, festivals and clubs need to do more to inspire the next class of teachers and performers...and i count Ben amongst the best and brightest of this next class of players. My mission as director of the Milwaukee Ukulele Festival (now The Great Lakes Ukulele Festival) has always been to showcase as much "emerging talent" as we could get away with presenting and so i aim to make good on my word and bring Ben to WI.

A River's View of Sunrise CD Review:
I would describe Ben's new record as imaginative, and filled with all the emotion
of one's natural surroundings. This record is obviously inspired by Ben's natural 
world via his rural Vermont home. It has a deep sense of humanity, and the sheer variety 
of 10 tracks takes the listener on a rollicking ride of joy, self contemplation, and quiet 
determination. Ultimately... its a breath of fresh air! 

His style shines thru on this record, as Ben combines fluid finger picking,
harmonically vibrant themes, layered with chordal flourishes and ample single string
lead style playing. I couldn't help but wonder if Ben had spent any time listening to
the likes of guitar gods like John Fahey, Preston Reed or Micheal Hedges, as there's a
real maturity to his arrangements both rhythmically and melodically.

The CD opens with the tune Leap Frog, a super-uplifting,
toe-tapping fiddle tune inspired creation which Ben says started 
on the guitar and morphed into a tour de force picking piece 
a la the looper, used to great effect. Song For Teeny with gentle hints of broadway
reads like classic Carr again combining a nice mix of chordal and single string

Hinting at Ben's ukulele roots and appreciation for tradition,
Galope is an old Manuel Cabral composition that Ben says
John King pointed him to. (All ukulele players would do well
to read, listen to and study the legacy of John King, whom i regard
as one of the greatest finger style/ Campanella players to ever walk 
the earth.)  

The records title track #4, is a River's View of Sunrise, 
an open A tuned piece, combines classic picking, delay, reverb infused 
pattern playingand Ben's signature use of harmonics. Sultry, sweet and superbly crafted 
music, proudly wearing the banner of Made in Vermont! 

Nate and Leah's Song is a heartfelt ode Ben wrote to accompany a 
requested Wedding March at a friends wedding. Other highlights include the playful
Sugar Shack a strum/picked tune with vocals and kazoo, as well as the delicately
picked Johannes Brahms classic Wiegenlied.

All in all, this is a fine collection for Ben's first full length, all-uke-album debut into
the ukulele world. I look forward to watching this fella grow and evolve as he carries
his songbag far and wide. To purchase this record visit
Ben's site at: 

Ben's Own Equipment Notes For The Record:
Effects used:
My pedal board set up for this album was a Boss compression/sustain, TC Electronics distortion, 
TC Electronics delay, Boss loop station. Then through an ART Tube Preamp.
Aside from the DI each uke was also captured with two different Blue Microphones. 
One was a Bluebird and unfortunately I don't recall the second. This second mic was also used for 
voice and kazoo.

Style notes:
Two tracks are in open A tuning - the title song and Leap Frog. The others were in C6 tuning, 
some with low G. My style on this album truly blends and blurs the lines with fingerpicking, looping, 
harmonic tapping, jazzy strumming, and beatboxing. To further confuse it I throw in a kazoo and vocal tune. 

Where to find Benn Carr online:
Here's a newer version of an old song. 

Here's a duo version of A Song For Teeny from a live show.

                                Ben Carr's 2016 Release

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The 50 Best Songs of Hawaii

Lets just be honest here.

All too often,  mainlanders who've taken up the
ukulele have little working knowledge of Hawaiian musical traditions.

I know this is a blanket statement and some of you might balk at just a generalization. my 20 years of riding the ukulele wave, traversing America's highways
and byways, upwards of 40,000 miles a year

Here's what i conclude....

There are many on the mainland who regularly visit Hawaii,
and many who are from Hawaii, as well as some who simply love Hawaiian music
and in doing their homework, have gone much deeper then Jake, Ohta and Iz.

But the sad reality is that unless you're a member of the Santa Cruz Ukulele or
some coastal area that attracts touring Hawaiian artists, chances are you're
scratching your head wondering where to begin, whence seeking out Hawaiian
music in all its breadth and glory.

That's why i am sharing this link to a fabulous list of 50 of the greatest Hawaiian songs
of all time.

Here's an awesome reference from Honolulu Magazine, to help you get started.

I would urge you to read the article, but do your homework along the way.
That is, if you are unfamiliar with any of the songs mentioned, go to You Tube
and see if you can find some nice versions these.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jake's Pedal Set Up

If any of you have ever wondered how Jake gets that amazing wall of sound out of
a single ukulele, the following video posted on REVERB.COM will be quite insightful.

The typical player will almost always have a reverb pedal and a delay, those two are a must.

Jake elaborates on his addition of a Tube Dreamer, Octave Pedal, Volume Pedal and
Looping effects.

His set-up no doubt is the result of 100's if not 1000's of hours of experimentation with
electronic pedals, in his quest for the perfect tone / sound. The most inventive players
all seem to have this obsessive drive in common when it comes to trying out
the greatest and latest gear.

Like his guitar playing contemporaries, the use of pedals helps him create a sonic
palette that is quite diverse in its range of dynamics from great big rich chords on the
octave pedal to volume manipulation on his Hilton Volume Pedal....there's a wide
variety of effects being used in his on stage shows to great success, especially
given the limitations of a small acoustic instrument with nylon strings and the ever
lurcking menace of feedback that can be inherent when plugging in

I've personally built a style of early blues, ragtime, folk and old time
string-band based repertoire on resonators where good microphones and
their placement in relationship to your fretboard and sound hole are supreme.
But when i perform in my blues quartet for my Jews N Blues Show i
do plug in and have spent alot of time trying to figure out how to get a good
blues tube sound out of my wood bodied ukuleles. But this is a whole different
beast so we'll save it for another post.

Never the less, it interests me, to know what one of the most visible ukulele pros is
using to get the sound he gets.

There's no substitute for good technique and Jakes sound is based as much on
his agility, expertise, rhythmic pizzaz, wide variety of strums, picking patterns,
single string lead style, chordal melody playing and inventive arranging as
it is on effects pedals.

Bottom line....the effects pedals are the icing on the cake!

Check out this very informal and intimate patter on his pedal effects...

                        America's Hardest Working Uke Star- Jake Shimabukuro

Here's a link to Jakes Site 

Hear some of Jakes Newest Record Streaming on Amazon:

Hope you enjoyed this blog post,

Lil Rev (C)(P) Fountain of Uke 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dan Scanlan's New "Cool Hand" Soprano Uke

I've known Dan Scanlan for almost 20 years now....

I have had the pleasure of working alongside him in Nova Scotia at the Ceilidh,
as well as at countless festivals across the U.S. 

In a sea of posers, I have long championed Dan as the "real deal," and he's why...
his heart is so undeniably rooted in all things ukulele and he's paid his toll after decades 
of championing the ukulele (and long before it was cool).

He is unassuming, down to earth, salt of the earth, a consummate ukulele historian, 
and a strong player with a unique style all his own. 

Its these things and more, that keep me interested in what my pal Dan is up to ukulele-wise.

Recently, he has begun promoting a new line of ukulele's with his signature "Cool Hand Uke" model. 

What follows is a short interview with him. 

1-Tell us about your ukulele responsibilities these days? What are you involved with in terms of clubs, festivals, teaching, etc.

I continue to direct and teach Cool Hand Uke’s Strum Bums Ukulele Extravaganza Rescue and Relief Band. We have met weekly since 1999 and perform publicly 60 to 90 gigs each year—assisted living, convalescent and retirement homes, schools, county fairs and various community fund-raisers. We received a standing ovation at the New York Ukulele Festival, served as the “house band” at the Santa Cruz CA Festival, and have performed at the Honolulu International Ukulele Festival twice. 

My 75-lesson ukulele course Play Uke Now at has more than 1600 students from 67 countries. Three iBooks on the ukulele, including ukulele history, are on Apple’s iTunes.

For the past ten years I have toured from California to Nova Scotia and back giving workshops and performances bi-annually. This year would have been a tour year but the anchor gig where I emcee, the Liverpool Nova Scotia International Ukulele Ceilidh, is not hosting American players this year due to the current exchange rate and the unpredictable border situation.

I am currently developing a two-set, one-man show of primarily original tunes on ukulele, raj√£o, braguinha, baritone, harmonica and baglama to take on the road later this year.

2-What's so endearing about the ukulele to you after all these years?

The friendliness of the ukulele continues to give me the strength to express my political, social and justice concerns without alienating those who don’t share my stunning insight. As a tool to access my heart, spleen and neurotransmitters it has elevated my highs and softened the hard bumps in my life. The ukulele is multi-cultural both in the annals of history and in the current day. The ukulele is the cynosure of the most effective peace movement on the planet today. What’s not to hold dear?

3-What's a quote-able Dan Scanlan saying as it pertains to the ukulele .....impart some wisdom

Quote from my website:

The ukulele can be
Cradled like a baby,
Sing like a bird and
Is small enough to
Emanate large and
Absorb and expand
The subtle emotion
The player Feels.
It's here now
And there then.

The final quote from The Mighty Uke Movie trailer:
There’s a lot of music in the ukulele—a lot of music!

4- Why Cool Hand Ukulele Soprano Ukuleles? How Much? Where to Get em' ? Why would someone want one of these over the slew of other instruments now available? 

I’ve dreamed of offering a signature ukulele for decades. Many of the early players gave their names to ukuleles—Wendall Hall, Roy Smeck, Bobby Henshaw, May Singhi Breen, Arthur Godfrey. It is a thread of ukulele culture. As a one time radio host I shared that experience, too, with Hall, Breen and Godfrey. Being able to offer my own ukulele was akin to offering my own songs, performances, lessons and recordings. And any uke I offered would have to be the original ukulele, now called a soprano, sound good, be sturdy, play well and be beautiful. At one time I fantasized making ukuleles, but that thought vanished when I found this one. 

After investigating 100s of ukuleles I came across one that had it all—beautiful, great sustain and volume, comfortable playability, exceptional intonation. In short a true ukulele I could be proud to give my name. I had hoped to be able to offer my ukulele for under $200, but shipping costs and refinements made that impossible. I am however happy to be able to offer it for $320, substantially less than other ukuleles in its class. They are available at my website, and at several music stores, including Wonderwall Emporium in Chicago Heights IL. 

The Cool Hand Uke is precision crafted on state of the art computer controlled machinery of spruce, rosewood and mahagony. The spruce top is strengthened by fanned “flying arch” braces that straddle the bridge plate, allowing the majority of the top to reverberate stronger and longer. Rather than a large sound hole in the center that is often muffled by the player’s hand, a smaller hole and pearlescent rosette is located at the top of the small bout. A larger hole is located on the upper side of the large bout so the player can hear clearly. Fret location dots on the top and sides of the rosewood fretboard help the player identify where to play. The tuners enclose smooth action gears for easy tuning. The nut and saddle are bone, and the top is bound in rosewood and shell. Aquila strings are used. I play and verify the integrity of each instrument before it is shipped. I commissioned 40 of them. Each is numbered  on the back of the peghead (I play Number 1 every day). Although I own many high-end ukuleles, this is the one that has become my favorite and that responds best to my styles of playing, whether heavy percussion or soft tickling.

                                        Dan Scanlan's New Cool Hand Uke Soprano Model 

{Please Note: this is not a paid ad for this instrument, it is merely a flag to let folks know that this product is out and on the market. Lil Rev has not played one of these instruments and its merits are based on the opinion of Dan Scanlan}

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Teaching @ Elderly Instruments in March

After a long hiatus, I'll be heading back to Michigan to teach a few classes
at Elderly Instruments ( ) in Lansing.

It was way back in the mid-90's that Elderly took a big chance on a little known
record called Uke Town, which was my first real attempt to feature a mess'o
ukulele on wax.

Thanks in part to long time employees at Elderly like Chris Rietz,
Brian Hefferan, Stan Werbin, Libby and a few others, the store began to play my
CD in store alot, which led to new fans, gigs and a very appreciate musician...Lil Rev!

In 1996, that same year, they also featured my Uke Town
as a "HOT PLATTER, in their mail order catalogue, which also boosted sales and encourage
me to make a full length, "all" ukulele record (the fountain of uke series).

I've always felt a huge debt of gratitude to Elderly and their dedicated staff
for recognizing that the ukulele was coming back (way ahead of the national curve)
and that they deemed me worthy enough to stock my recordings on their showroom floor and
in their catalogue was something i'll always be grateful for. It really helped get
the word out about what i was doing with regards to the ukulele.

Elderly started in the 1970's as just a small operation and thru alot of hard work,
owner Stan Werbin and a very dedicated crew have put Lansing, MI on the map
for like-minded acoustics music lovers, traditional players, local students
and an international customer base that looks forward to receiving the elderly catalog
even more so in this digital era, whence it really does feel good to hold something real
in your hands!

Musicians and music lovers the world over love visiting Elderly, and who wouldn't?
Guitars galor, banjo's, mandolins, ukuleles, books, records, and all the accouterments
one might consider as a picker are available at Elderly.

Thank you Stan, Chris, Brian, Libby and so many others at Elderly!

I will be teaching 2 workshops on Saturday March 4th-

11am-12:30pm- The Blues & Boogie of Leadbelly For Ukulele. (open to all levels)

3pm-4:30pm- Learn 6 Triplet Strokes on the Ukulele. (open to all levels)

If you're a local ukulele player and you can't make the elderly classes in March, i'll be back in the area in June at the Midwest Ukulele Camp (June 23rd-25th) teaching with a world class cast of Ukulele & Harmonica players for a full weekend of jamming, workshops, vendors, and more.

                                     My Good Pal, Ukulele Guru and longtime Elderly Employee Brian Hefferan

                                                                     Brian and I doing St. James Infirmary Blues 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lil Rev's 2016 CD release: Claw & Hammer Liner Notes

Notes On The Making of My New Claw & Hammer CD

The Idea:
In the early winter months of 2016, after an nearly unbearable 2015, i decided i'd focus my 
mind on something positive whilst my daughter and i whiled away the cold, 
dark winter months that proceded Carol's passing. 

To that end, i determined that a new recording project might be 
just the ticket! 

Having endured a treacherous year of illness, depression, and 
near death myself (stung by a black wasp and went into Anaphylaxis shock), 
i needed this project to be light, fun and easy.  

Given this, I pulled out a list of tunes i'd been compiling over the last couple of years; 
mostly early country, folk and pre-bluegrass type stuff that i aimed to record 
with a claw-hammer bent to them. 

About My Claw-Hammer Roots: 

My love of banjo playing was mostly inspired by backing up my longtime
music pal John Nicholson of Frogwater. John is an incredible player and
over the years i grew to love old time banjo mostly thru backing him up.

I was asked to teach a folk instruments class for educators and music majors
at The University of WI-Milwaukee many years ago and it was during this time
that i taught myself the claw-hammer banjo.

The late Gail Heil of Spring Grove, MN was also a huge help along the way, when
one summer day she took the time to teach me the actual claw-hammer stroke.

I practiced it for about 4 weeks before i really started getting comfortable with it.

Over the years i came to love banjo music and listened intently to: Doc Boggs, Stephen Wade,
Hobart Smith, Uncle Dave, Grandpa Jones, Riley Baugus, Walt Kokenen, Steve Rosen,
Jim Eyman, Cathy Fink, Howard Bursen, Peter Thornquist, Ken Perlman, Clarence Ashley,
and 100's of others, all of whom informed and inspired me.

As the years wore on, i discovered that i enjoyed playing the claw-hammer stroke alot more on the ukulele than i did on the actual banjo and a repertoire of tunes began to take shape.

About The Album: 

I recorded the record in Milwaukee, WI at Surround in Sound Studios under the steady hand of Jonathan Leubner (where i've done many a project).

The Musicians i included are some of the best around!

Session #1 was a solo session. I recorded:
Old No. 7 and original instrumental piece
Epiphany in Gm another solo instrumental piece also...
Ragged But Right, Skillet Good N Greasy,

Session #2: Was an incredible experience, once again i leaned hard on
a few of my favorite harmony singers: Jim Eannelli, Robin Pluer, John & Mike Sieger
and Peter Roller (to overdub) a handful of tunes including: No Mo' Cane On The Brazos,
Gonna See The King, Green Grows The Laurel and

Session #3:
Bob Bovee and Lynn Chirps Smith came in for a session of old time fiddle tunes
and these two guys have both been my hero's for years. They know old time music
and together we recorded: Cotton Eyed Joe, Possum On A Rail, Dandy Lusk and
Spider Bit The Baby with Bob on guitar and mouth harp and Chirps on Fiddle.
I was going for an old time string-band sound and decided for my part to employ
the banjo-ukulele which was rhythmically the driving force behind many great string
bands in the 20's and 30's including The Fiddling Powers Family, Al Hopkin's Buckle
Busters and Da Costa Wolz's Southern Broadcasters.

The Last Session (#4) included local guitar hero Jason Klagstad whose 6 string ukulele work
brought new life to the old Hank Garland tune: Sugar Foot Rag.

John Nicholson played rhythm ukulele on this session (as well the Angeline The Baker Duet) and Guy Fiorentini added upright bass on a bevy of tunes from Sugar Foot Rag and Snow Drop to Walking Boss.

Also in the mix was my dear old pals Will Branch (Guitar) and Dave Fox (Fiddle) who came in to record Liza Jane an old fiddle tune i'd learned from Dave and Jim Eyman's playing on an old cassette tape.

About The Tunes: 

Cotton Eyed Joe- I learned this from Kenny Hall. I play a gold-tone banjo ukulele on this.
Epiphany in Gm- I wrote this in Tampa, FL in 2014.
Gonna See The King- Learned this from an old Washington Phillips Record.
Keep My Skillet Good N Greasy-An Uncle Dave Macon Tune.
Old No. 7- I wrote this after a Krav Maga Class. No. 7 is one of 7 defensive elbow strikes.
Possum On A Rail-I was turned onto this tune by John Nicholson, whom i credit with inspiring me
to learn many great fiddle tunes.
Morning Blues- Another Uncle Dave Macon Tune
Old Joe Clark-A Stringband there anyone who hasn't heard this tune?
Don't Say Goodbye: Blue Sky Boys Tune i have always loved.
Angeline The Baker: Stephen Foster Classic piece
Walking Boss- Clarence Ashley was my source
Spider Bit The Baby-Dave Para and Cathy Barton were my source for this Kenny Baker Tune
Portland County Jail- Art Thieme was my source for this Carl Sandburg American Songbag Tune
Green Grows The Laurel-Don Edwards was my source for this beautiful old broken hearted love song
Snow Drop-Sam and Kirk McGhee was the roots, Ken Middleton and Cathy Fink were the catalysts
Dick Norman- Loman Cansler of Folkways records collected tons of great tunes in Missouri
Fiddling Dave's Liza Jane-Dave Fox was my source
Ragged But Right- Riley Puckett was my source for this Tin Pan Alley-Esq tune
Dandy Lusk- Spencer and Raines are two of my favorite young fogies and they were my source for this cool 1 chord tune.
Ain't No More Cane- I have always loved this one, to be found in the Lomax collection: Folk Songs of North America.
Sugar foot Rag-Hank Garland is the only source for this!
Ginny's Gone Away; The hidden track i learned from Joe Hickerson, former head of The Library of Congress Folk Archive

Lil Rev's 2020 Florida WinterUke Tour

                                           Lil Rev announces "killer" Florida Uke Tour 2020                            Lil Re...