Review – Danielle Ate the Sandwich’s Two Bedroom Apartment

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Because of it’s diminutive size and short range, it would be easy to dismiss the ukulele as a toy.  But like the alter-ego of many a super hero, it is exactly the limitations and low expectations of this “tiny guitar” that makes it so powerful.  Sure, you can make some noise if you kick a uke hard enough, but not even close to the buzzy fuzz storm you get from even a gentle strum on an acoustic guitar.

The short attack and even shorter sustain of a plucked ukulele string leaves you little room to hide, and even when strummed, it is closer to a tuned percussion instrument than to its more full-bodied cousins in the string family.  But when these limitations are not ignored, and instead embraced by a performer, the ukulele becomes a zen-haiku-laser guided-razor sharp-electron microscope-true essence of the song machine.  Three of the four Beatles knew this to be the truth of the ukulele (Ringo said “me too”), and so does Danielle Anderson.

Danielle, better known as her performing persona, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, achieved super hero status for me earlier this year when, backed by members of the Boulder Acoustic Society, she turned the dreck formerly known as Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA into my favorite ukulele cover ever.  Like rose-colored earmuffs, she transformed what had once been the hot-stamped bilge of the most corporate of corporate music machines into a beautiful, organic, lilting ballad.  It was so good it almost made it possible for me to enjoy the original version – almost.

Her new album, Two Bedroom Apartment, is her first to be recorded in an actual studio instead of at home.  Where her earlier works had a direct DIY punchiness, the professional recording of the new album, like the ukulele itself, opens up her sound and leaves plenty of room for her to weave her magic.  Even fleshed out with many more instruments (bass, drums, violin, banjo, organ, slide guitar, accordion, mandolin, horn) in the loving hands of the aforementioned Boulder Acoustic Society members, it never sounds like there is one more note than the songs need.

And this is exactly what you want when you have a performer that has something interesting to say about the human condition and can phrase it in a way that constantly surprises and delights.  She doesn’t just miss an absent lover, she feels empathy for the lonely shopping carts bumping into cars just to feel that someone is there.  It is this gift for cinematic storytelling that elevates her songs and makes them resonate.

So this is not what some would expect from a ukulele album.  There are no coconuts or sandy beaches.  The themes are darker, or at least a little absurdistly twisted.  But it is very much a ukulele album because it is infused with the deceptive simplicity and spaciousness that the ukulele inspires.  I suspect that any one of these songs will be busting my iPod out of shuffle mode when they pop up and remind me just how good the whole album is….

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  1. Arrow July 28th, 2010 4:04 pm

    I adore you! Your music has been healing to me through a long, very difficult illness. I pray to get to hear you live someday! Big Hugs! Thanks for all the smiles and tears.

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