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L.A. Beat

Manititoba Hal makes his ukulele sing the blues

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The ukulele makes music for more than just grass skirts and hula dances, in the hands of “Manitoba” Hal Brolund, it is also a great instrument to make blues music.

“I use a lot of technology, looping effects and drum and bass to create soundscapes. It sounds like a one man band, but it is all created right in front of the audience,” said Brolund who is looking forward to playing the Tongue N Groove, July 21.

Manitoba Hal returns to Lethbridge, July 21. Photo by Lisa D BuchananHe released his lastest CD “Huckster” last year and is already looking forward to the next. But  for now he is eagerly anticipating his new tour with the ukulele.

“A lady came up to me and told me I can’t believe that’s a freaking ukulele. That’s the greatest compliment,” he continued.

“When people think of the ukulele, they think of  grass skirts and hula or novelty songs like Tiny Tim.

And while Eddie Vedder released a solo ukulele album, there still isn’t a lot of authentic blues being played on the ukulele. It is an instrument still possessed by a huge amount of melancholy,” he said.

While Brolund is a pretty impressive guitar player, a year or so ago, he decided to just concentrate on ukulele.

“I still play guitar, though not in the live show. I’ve gone to the dark side and  have just been playing ukulele. I find it is much more unique. Lots of people play guitar and lots of great songwriters use a guitar, but  there are not a lot of good ukulele players,” he said.

“It’s more of a stand out instrument. It’s something unique I can bring to the table,” he said . He said he decided to make the switch after talking to a fan after a show, who asked him what he does to make him happy when he is at home.

“I found I played ukulele. That made me happy. I didn’t even take the guitar out of it’s case until the next tour or record. So I thought ‘this is what I do, so I should share it.’  This time, I thought  I’d leave the guitar at home. It’s less to pack,” he said.

“it’s such a surprising instrument to hear the blues on. But I’m pushing the boundaries on it,” he said.

“People have fond memories of the ukulele from learning it in school,” he said.
He even has his own custom built Hal Brolund signature ukulele.

The Winnipeg bred Brolund, has been calling Shelburne, Nova Scotia his home for the past year, which has affected his music. He is raising money to fund his latest CD “Flirting with Mermaids.”
“It’s east coast meets the blues meets a carnival with  tattooed ladies, hucksters and barkers,” he said.

“I live two blocks from the ocean and it is a great community to make music. There are lots of people to collaborate with. It’s a wonderful community for supporting artistic expression.
 he is looking forward to returning to Lethbridge.

“Lethbridge is a great community to play in. It’s not on the direct route to anywhere other than the United States, but people come from far and wide to play there,” he said.
“And I’ve never played the new Tongue N’ Groove. It’s one of the places they know how to treat you right and Corrie (Brough) is one of the best venue owners for that. Those are my peeps,” he said.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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