Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro is about to make some more noise, with a new album, titled “Grand Ukulele,” due October 2nd. The Hawaii native, who became a viral phenomenon with his Beatles cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” is treating fans with an early listen of album track, “Island Fever Blues.”
The track is intricate, as Shimabukuro displays his mastery of the 4-stringed ukulele, transitioning from musical section to section. Like much of Shimabukuro’s music, the track fuses a multitude of genres, including some flamenco, classical and blues. Shimabukuro strums with wild fervor and plucks with the utmost sensitivity, as each string rings beautifully. Unlike some of Shimabukuro’s larger arrangements, the track is a solo composition, although that doesn’t take away from its complexity. Get an Exclusive First Listen of “Island Fever Blues”:
Listen to Jake Shimabukuro’s “Island Fever Blues”
In fact, the song was initially written in the backyard of musician/producer Alan Parsons‘ house. Shimabukuro wasn’t there just for a visit, but Parsons produced “Grand Ukulele,” adding the ukulele player to his resume of musical collaborators, including The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
“It kind of helped us because it was one of those songs in the beginning of the session when we first started working together. It was one of the songs I think that we felt like we were really collaborating,” Shimabukuro told Billboard. Shimabukuro and Parsons came up with the track’s title together, as Shimabukuro described Parsons saying, “Its got a nice blues feel to it.”
While Shimabukuro described initially being nervous sending Parsons some demos, he said, “Working with him, it was so inspiring and I learned so much.” Parsons’ musical endeavors have often included ambitious, high-concept progressive rock records, though Shimabukuro and Parsons seem to work well together. “What was really fascinating to me was that Alan heard everything the way that I intended them, like he interpreted all the harmonies the way that I was hearing them. It was amazing because he just knew. I was just so blown away by him,” says Shimabukuro.
“Grand Ukulele” will follow up his last record, 2011’s “Peace Love Ukulele” (Hitchhike Records), which topped Billboard’s World Albums chart. Aside from Parsons, the album will feature other notable musicians such as drummer Simon Phillips, as well as Kip Winger (of hard rock band Winger), who composed the string arrangements for the record. The new album was played and recorded live.
“There were absolutely no overdubs,” notes Shimabukuro. “Bringing all these people together, and everyone brings their own experience, their own background, their own interpretation, their own spirit, and love and passion for music.” In addition to original material, fans that enjoy Shimabukuro’s inventive covers, like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” can look also forward to hearing a couple more covers on the new album.
Shimabukuro describes recording the album as a “truly magical experience for me. I’m just excited.”