With Lightning Bolt, the tenth studio album by Seattle band Pearl Jam coming out in just a few weeks, it’s just appropriate that I was asked to review the second solo album of the band’s lead singer, Mr. Eddie Vedder. However talented he might be, it’s curious to note how his creative effort has greatly been focused on his day job band. It wasn’t until Sean Penn asked him to help him with the soundtrack to the excellent 2007 movie Into the Wild, that he released an entire album without his mates behind him. Then came Backspacer, and in between that and Lightning Bolt, Vedder released yet another solo album.
And that’s how we come across Ukelele Songs, a very self-explicable name for an album, because that’s exactly what we find here, 16 tracks with not much else than Eddie covering old songs from the 30s-40s with nothing else than his voice and one of those little guitars used by Hawaiians. And therefore, we must not really judge Ukelele Songs as the work of a singer-songwriter, as the work of an artist who is getting bored and restricted by his day job band and wants a silent retreat. No, Eddie Vedder just had an idea in his mind, decided to take action and record it. And maybe what he initially intended was to simply share this set of songs among his closest friends, however, it’s great that he treats us fans just like that.
And no, this is no essential record to understand Pearl Jam or 90s music or the grunge scene. No, this is simply a treat given to us by this man, just like those Christmas singles bands are used to release; they’re far from essential, but it’s always a joy to see them around every year. No real song stands out from this collection, since most of them are less than 3 minutes long, and therefore, the most notable cases would be those guest appearances by the likes of Glen Hansard on Sleepless Nights and Cat Power on Tonight You Belong to Me. And if I had to choose one among them, I would have probably done the same as the band and chosen Sleeping by Myself, a track included on their upcoming album.