Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I am not a musician – I am a frustrated musician. Basically I have no talent or natural ability at all. I never took piano lessons, but oh how I wish I could play piano today. I once asked my father why he never made me take lessons (my brother and sister both took piano) and he said I had no interest and he didn't think he should force me. I disagreed – I told him he should have forced me, because I'd be able to play now. He made a sound of disgust "No matter what you do; you're damned if you do, damned if you don't."

He's right. My lack of talent certainly didn't come from him. He played piano beautifully. No, all the inherited musical ability rested in my brothers. The eldest especially. He started on piano, then someone gave him a ukulele, then he would go to his friend's house to drum. In high school, after begging for months, I got a guitar for my birthday. It was a cheap Tijuana guitar with poor action and mediocre tone, but it didn't matter to me. I took lessons and I practiced. Every day. I had so little coordination in my left hand, that at first, when I changed chords, I had to use my right hand to physically move the fingers of the left into the new position! Eventually my left hand got used to moving by itself and gained a great deal of dexterity. That's when I discovered an even greater problem with the right hand – no rhythm. None. Nada. Zilch. Zip. It only went up and down. Up, down, up, down. No change. Monotony, not music. Forget about picking.

Soon after the discovery of the bad, bad right hand, my brother came into my room, sat on my bed, and picked up the guitar. He'd never played one before, but he had the ukulele experience. Well, in that one sitting, he played ten times better than I had after six months of lessons and daily practice. It was so natural to him, and such a struggle for me.

I gave him the guitar that day. Years later, when he purchased a very amazing classical guitar, he tried to give me his older one – which was not a cheap guitar by any means either. I understood his sentiment, but I told him he should give it to someone who could really play it, and who would get years of enjoyment from it.

So, in addition to piano, drums, ukulele, and guitar, my brother also plays mandolin, banjo, pipe organ and some kind of Fijian string instrument, whose name escapes me. He is also much better at sports. I however, can beat him in golf, because he has the nastiest hook I have ever laid eyes on. It makes me very happy. I am also a much better artist.

Okay, that was a long preface to this: Even though I am not a musician, I am a great lover of music and I'd like to recommend 2 musicians and 1 band.

1) Jake Shimabukuro – Ukulele
Extraordinary musician. He does things with a ukulele that I could never imagine. I first heard about him a few months ago on NPR. Then last month I went with some girlfriends to see him at the Triple Door in Seattle. He was amazing, as well as young, cute, charming, funny and overall entertaining. Pick up one of his CD's, check out his website. Go see him live if you get the chance – you will not be disappointed. You'll never think about the Ukulele in the same way again.
2) Marcus Eaton – Singer/Songwriter, extremely fast on the guitar.
I saw Marcus Eaton at the Triple Door – he opened for Jake Shimabukuro. This was a case where the first act was as good as the headliner. His songs were beautiful, the lyrics complex. He plays guitar in the double picking style of Earl Klugh, only not jazz, more rock. And fast? Clapton may have to give up his "Slowhand" nickname. Check out his website – you can pick up his solo CD there.
3) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
This band sometimes reminds me of Bob Dylan, sometimes of Talking Heads. A strange combination, I know, but it's true. They have two CD's now. I just got the 2nd one and I am not disappointed. The first one has been the soundtrack in my head for months now. With the exception of the first very short cut – more of a sound mix than a song, every song is compelling. I haven't felt this way about a band since G Love and Special Sauce. Check it out.

*links to above mentioned websites are to your right.

P.S. The guitar lessons were not a complete waste - the acquired dexterity in my left hand has made me a better typist, which really helps my writing.


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