Released in 2006, Shimabukuro’s 5th solo studio album Gently Weeps is a masterpiece album featuring Shimabukuro’s strengths as both a player and as an arranger. Comprised of solo ‘ukulele arrangements and a few bonus tracks from a movie he scored titled Hula Girls, Shimabukuro rose the ceiling on the potential of the ‘ukulele even hitting the #2 Spot on Billboard’s Top World Music Albums during the year of its release. Whether his soft touch for the grand Ave Maria, the lightning fingers of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, or the swing of Misty, Shimabukuro visits the corners of his versatility to bring life to this timeless album and once again bringing the ‘ukulele to the world stage.
Today we are going to head into Shimabukuro’s beautifully arranged version of the Star Spangled Banner. Shimabukuro creates a large room in a short amount of time as he exhibits wonderfully arced and tastefully placed dynamic changes. Slowly entering the melody with a light touch, Shimabukuro moves through the song minimally adding in tasteful accompanying strums (0:04, 0:14, etc). His phrasing sounds vocal as he adds subtle changes (0:26, 0:36, etc) and varying inflections (0:11, 0:20, 0:46, etc), keeping the ear curious of the variations of our well known national anthem. Entering into a lofty fingerpicking pattern (0:48), Shimabukuro plays with the ebb of flow of the song before slowly gaining momentum to the first crescendo of the song (1:03). Strumming with all five fingers, Shimabukuro’s rasqueado hits you in the chest with each stroke (1:15-1:22). Rolling with his right hand and playing an articulate chord melody with his left, he rocket’s the song into the air (1:29) only to sit us back down on a jazzy diminished chord (1:32). He triumphantly strums his way to the end of the song creating a new dynamic ceiling, leaving the listener one foot off the ground.
Shimabukuro brought a new voice to the Star Spangled Banner in 2006 on the ‘ukulele as Hendrix did with the electric guitar in 1969.
UkePrints is a curated playlist of some essential ukulele tracks that all ukulele player should listen to. These songs have left a legacy for future players and in essence, sound impressions of the ‘ukulele or what I like to call them: UkePrints.