The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
Dent May seems an unlikely pop star. The diminutive singer sports the largest spectacles in show biz since Larry "Bud" Melman, has the kind of baby face that rivals Truman Capote for pinchabilty, and plays the ukulele, for Pete's sake. Fortunately, once the album (The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele) begins to play any doubts about his ultra twee appearance or choice of instrument are swept away by the brilliant single "Meet Me in the Garden." The lyrics are instantly memorable, the melody is instantly hummable, and it's the kind of tune that brings a smile to your ace every time it comes on the radio. On the song (and on the album) the potential, for lack of a better term, doo-wacka-doo factor of the ukulele is kept to a bare minimum and May has a rich and subtle style of singing that gives off waves of sincerity and soul without a trace of novelty. There is a definite Southern collegiate feel to his voice and style; it's easy to picture him sitting on a porch in Mississippi, a tall and possibly fruit-based beverage close at hand, strumming his uke languidly and writing the songs. Of course, the whole collegiate image could also be seen as a negative (and calling a song "At the Academic Conference" certainly doesn't help) but May makes sure to add plenty of humor and light-hearted wit to try to defuse accusations of being too brainy. He and his pretty good and adaptable band make lots of references that should help to defuse any lingering ill will, to the Beach Boys ("Girls on the Square"), the Kinks ("Howard"), Jonathan Richman ("You Can't Force a Dance Party"), the Turtles ("Love Song 2009"), and the Prefab Sprout ("College Town Boy"). Only a couple songs fall into the overly cutesy trap he so deftly avoids elsewhere: the goofy tribute to tennis player Michael Chang and the silly and insubstantial "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" are the main offenders. The overly serious "I'm an Alcoholic" doesn't really play to May's strengths either. For the most part, though, he has crafted a very impressive debut here. Definitely track down "Meet Me in the Garden" as it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album, but give the rest a chance too.