Lil’ Rev

Lil' Rev and his sexy banjo.  Copyright 2003
Lil’ Rev is a folk musician from Milwaukee Wisconsin. He plays many instruments but for me his ukulele playing is what sets him apart. His blues playing in particular with the uke is fantastic. An instrument that you normally identify with jolly island themes suddenly takes on the soulful mood of a guitar in the hands of Lil’ Rev. He currently teaches music history at the The University of WI. He also has put out a series of instructional books and cds for Hal Leonard Publishing. Having gone through his ukulele book I can speak first hand that these books are excellent learning materials. He also does music lectures and workshops, all in addition to song writing, performing. He’s one active fellow.

Born in 1968 Lil’ Rev grew up in a musical household. His mother was an avid singer and his father played the piano and harmonica. At the age of twelve Rev attained his first guitar and he immediately got to work figuring out the chords of his favorite songs on the radio. In a matter of a few years he also picked up the mandolin, harmonica and banjo. It would be another decade or so until Rev was given his first ukulele, a Wendell Hall banjo ukulele. For those that don’t know despite appearances the five string banjo and ukulele are actually very similar. One of the main features that gives them their unique sound is called re-entrant tuning. In this form of tuning the strings are not in order of lowest to highest pitch. This creates a different sound when a chord is played across all strings then say, the same chord played on a mandolin or guitar. So the fact that Rev was already familiar with the full size banjo must have helped in those first few sessions with his uke. In any event something clicked between him and that tiny stringed instrument and he’s been one of it’s spokesman ever since.

Lil’ Rev primarily plays American music, Blues, old time and blue grass. More recently he’s been embracing his Jewish heritage and made some Klezmer recordings. In my opinion anything he touches is golden. His musicality is spot on, he sings with such conviction. I must admit at first listen I was turned off by his voice but in a short time it began to grow on me. His recordings can be a tricky to get a hold of. I’ll list the ones I know of below for completeness. I’ve been getting mine from Elderly but there are a few other avenues I’m sure. I’d recommend getting his two “Fountain of Uke” collections, both very good.

1) I Can’t Keep the Past Behind Me
2) Fountain of Uke: Volume #2
3) Fountain of Uke
4) Uke Town
5) That Old Madness
6) Sojourns & Sidewalks
7) Ragged But Beautiful
8) Mouth Organ Minstrel

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This stream is directly from Lil’ Rev’s site,

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