Today we revisit the amazing ‘ukulele player and guitarist, Ryo Montgomery. Montgomery has been a busy man since our last UkePrints featuring him in November. He has been on the road with the KoAloha family, recorded his first HiSessions and is currently wrapping a tour in Australia called, “The Blues Will Never Die.” His fierce chops, ears for arranging, and his stage demeanor really mark Montgomery as a permanent fixture in the ‘ukulele world.
Inspired by the late and great Stevie Ray Vaughn, Montgomery has affectionately named this fiery blues number SRV. In the blues tradition, SRV is a 12-bar blues in the key of A and utilizes a lot of the blues musician’s vocabulary. Whether it’s a B.B. King lick (0:08) or those funky T-Bone walker style 9th chords (0:06, 0:17, etc), SRV shows the gamut of Montgomery’s influences. Starting off nice and slow, Montgomery gives us some memorable blues guitar licks with beautifully spaced chords. His ebb and flow of aggression and a soft touch mixed in with a lyrical style of playing, leads the listener along a dynamic introduction. Integrated triplet strums (0:13), palm muting (0:19), and double stops (0:23) fill the first section of the song, all the while keeping the rhythm moving. Reminisce of the Stevie Ray Vaughn tune Scuttlebuttin’, the hook of the song utilizes speedy hammer-ons and pull-offs following the I-IV-V changes of the 12-bar blues (0:52). Throughout the song Montgomery uses a mixture chords including more 9ths, major 6/9, and the infamous Hendrix-esque #5(#9) to add variety to his comping. He begins singing with what sounds like classic blues lyrics of lost love and the triumph of starting anew (1:24). After two verses Montgomery launches into solo screaming SRV with chromatic moving chords and a syncopated rhythm (1:57). He keeps up the volume and energy even when he picks a short and sweet lick by strumming and muting his ‘ukulele less the desired string (2:04). Continuing the rhythmic theme from the hook and more palm muting, the energy of the song comes back down and helps accentuate his single note playing (all the while never losing the feel of the rhythm!). A bend and a chromatic lick is all he needs to transition back into some funky strumming (2:38). Now back at equilibrium, Montgomery finishes the last two verses of his blues story (3:02) before full circling with the hook (3:33) and on ascending A9 chords with various color tones to end the song.
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.