Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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One Little Song – Gillian Welch

souljourneyLooking back it’s been over 18 months since I posted a Gillian Welch song on here. So it seemed time to rectify that.

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So this morning this little ditty popped up whilst the iPod was playing on shuffle. And I thought, “that’s nice” and “that would work on the ukulele”. So this evening I gave it a try. And I was right – it does work.

This is the third song from 2003’s Soul Journey album that I’ve posted on here (see also Look At Miss Ohio and No One Knows My Name). Which is odd, because as I said previously that album is probably my least favourite of her albums (which doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means that Gillian sets the bar *so* high). But in contrast to the fuller band sound of a number of the tracks, One Little Song is stripped back to the very basics – just haunting vocals and picked guitar. It is a brief but not inconsequential tune that is seemingly born of a struggle to write a new tune (Welch sets herself high standards, and has commented that songwriting can be a struggle, something that contributed to the 8 year gap between Soul Journey and it’s follow-up, The Harrow and the Harvest).

And here’s the songsheet. Nothing too complicated as far as the chords are concerned, although there are a number of barre chords in there. I’ve added in an Asus4 for the intro, and you can throw a few of those into the first couple of lines of the verses if you wish, to give it a bit more colour. Oh, and this is definitely one to try picking if you can – its not really a strummer. Enjoy!

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Look At Miss Ohio – Gillian Welch

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A little while back I said that Gillian Welch might pop up quite regularly on this blog. To date she’s only appeared the once, and so it’s about time I put that right.

As I said on that first post, I do so love the music that Gillian Welch makes. Every time I come back to it there’s something warm and welcoming about it that wraps you up and holds you in its arms. That’s not to say this is bland, escapist stuff – there’s plenty of heartache, pain and tragedy sprinkled across these songs of hers, but there is something in these songs that leaves me with a sense of peace and contentment. I guess there was probably a time when I would have thought that was a bad thing. But right now I think that is a wonderful gift to give anybody. Edgy has its time and place, but sometimes you just want to be hugged, and Gillian’s songs do that for me.

“Look At Miss Ohio” is another song from her 2003 album “Soul Journey“. If truth be known it’s probably my least favourite of all her albums (in part due to the more band-oriented sound), but that is just a relative judgement. Gillian has never made a bad record, and there are some wonderful songs on Soul Journey. Whereas No One Knows My Name has more of an upbeat, bluegrass-y feel to it, Look At Miss Ohio falls into my favourite category of Gillian Welch songs – the slowburners. Those gentle, repetative, almost trance-like songs that are just *so* gorgeous. She took this to a mighty extreme on 2001’s Time (The Revelator) with the track I Dream A Highway – 14 and a half minutes of pure bliss, and when it ends it just feels like too soon. That song could go on forever as far as I’m concerned!

Lok At Miss Ohio is a song about a girl who might want to settle down at some point, but wants to live, to have some fun, before she does that. Who wants to do right, but not right now. Personally I’m many years the other side of that particular dilema, but it still rings a chord, and maybe a little ache inside about not having done so as much as maybe I should have. It’s a gorgeous song, as this live acoustic version from St Lukes in London shows – just Gillian and constant musical companion Dave Rawlings.

And so to the song sheet. Quite straightforward for chords, although the instrumental interludes throw in one or two unusual chords. Not much more to say, to be honest  – just sing and enjoy!

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No One Knows My Name – Gillian Welch

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Looking back over my first few posts it seems they’re all wrapped in an layer of nostalgia. The most recent being more than 25 years old. So I thought it time to show that my musical tastes haven’t ossified, and demonstrate that the 21st century is as full of good music as the 20th was. Step forward Ms Gillian Welch.

What? You were expecting something cutting edge and contemporary? Something with modern sounds, that addressed the sensibilities of the hyper-connected networked world in which we live? Something you were familiar with from the speakers of commercial radio stations or the background to the shopping mall. Yes, well I don’t really think that’s my thing. And just because music is made in the 21st century it doesn’t have to sound like it was, does it. So whilst being the newest song I’ve posted so far (2003) the irony here is that this one is by far the oldest sounding of all of them.

Gillian Welch (that’s Gillian with a hard “G”) is a wonderful anomaly. Derided by some for being a fake (she grew up in Los Angeles), her music is singularly derived from Appalachian, Bluegrass, and Americana music, described by The New Yorker as “at once innovative and obliquely reminiscent of past rural forms”. This is music that is steeped in its past, that is part of a tradition, and is deeply bedded in that tradition. Along with musical partner, guitarist David Rawlings, they have created a totally coherent musical sound that is so fresh and invigorating partly because it is so out-of-step with modern sounds. Totally acoustic, delicious harmonies, simple structures and traditional lyrical themes (including the odd murder song here and there!), what is not to like. OK, there’s not going to be a Gillian Welch theme-night on X-Factor (nice idea, though!). But that’s kind-of the point.

So to the song. No One Knows My Name is from the 2003 album Soul Journey, an album that marked something of a radical departure in having more of a “band” feel to the music (something discarded on the follow-up, 2011’s The Harrow and the Harvest). This song, however, is that classic Gillian Welch sound of just her and David Rawlings, banjo, guitar and voices, embelished with a nice fiddle-line all the way through given a jaunty good time feel that somewhat confuses the lyrical meditation on our place in the world, on loneliness and not being sure of our place in the world,

And here’s the best live version I could find (Gillian is really somebody you have to experience live. I saw here a couple of years ago in Brighton, and it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to).

And so to the songsheet. Gillian Welch songs tend to be musically straightforward, at least in terms of structure and chords, and this is no different . A simple four-line verse with a blues-like structure in their lines, the pattern repeats all the way through. I guess the thing to do is to take this basic structure and build light and shade in the instrumentation and harmonies. I couldn’t find any ukelele versions of this song anywhere (chords or performances), so take this and enjoy!

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(p.s. there’s a good chance that Ms. Welch may be appearing on this blog quite regularly. you have been warned)