Dent May & his Magnificent Ukulele - The Good Feeling of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele

Tim Miller 31/01/2009

Rating: 3/5

A new bandwagon has just rolled in to town. And we in these here isles like a bandwagon or two. Its name? Dent May-nia. (Like Hen-mania, so quite easy to get to grips with. Will probably peak over the summer, too). Whether or not it will catch on, this Oxford, Mississippi-hailing, ukulele-wielding tyke is still an immediately likeable and accessible solo artist, and his unique setup is likely to cause a great level of interest throughout 2009.

Dent May comes with the not-to-be-sniffed-at backing of Animal Collective, who signed him to their Paw Tracks imprint, and the production assistance Rusty Santos, who's worked with the likes of said group and Panda Bear. It's a fun, accomplished if unusual debut that's a mishmash of eras and traditional songwriting ideas. If The Spinto Band were playing at a '50s high school dance, this is what it would sound like.

What's most immediate about this debut is May's intriguing voice. His is a 'croon' - no two ways about it - that pitches somewhere between Elvis Costello and Buddy Holly, encapsulated in album beginners 'Welcome' and 'Meet Me in the Garden', all lilting harmonies and tranquil ukulele chords. It's a comparison aided by the consistent employment of doo-wop backing vocals, underpinning Dent's classic singing style.

The chinking ukulele is the focal point of this debut, but the bluegrassy twang to tracks 'Howard' and the tragic 'I'm an Alcoholic' lend Dent May more golden era references, the pedal steel weeping alongside May's blue croon. At other stately moments, the witty 'At The Academic Conference' and girl-chasing 'Meet Me in the Garden' swing gently with rhythmic insistence, the former investing in overlaid strings and horns to touch up the earnest backing.

When it's mixed up a little, some of Dent May's rumpus moments actually fall a little flat. The brass-infused 'God Loves You, Michael Chang' and album closer 'Love Song 2009' border on cheesy, upbeat ditties amounting to very little. But by contrast, 'Oh Paris!' is a foot-tapping counterpart to the kitsch songs, an understated and elegant ode to an elegant city, while 'You Can't Force a Dance Party' is the jovial centre to this debut, detailing the intimate anxiety of wanting to enjoy a small-town party.

In some ways, it's the way Dent May (plus his magnificent tool) retains that sense of locality with his debut that makes it ultimately a lo-fi triumph: lyrics forged from unique experience, music with a particularly personal feel to it, something that can be related to. You get the sense that Dent May can appeal on an international festival's acoustic stage - or the public hall in Taylor, the Mississippi town he recorded in with a population of 300 people, and it doesn't really alter the attraction of these tunes. Or bother May himself. This debut isn't the heralding of a new Bob Dylan, but the quaint good feeling of Dent May and his magnificent ukulele is a debut capable of brightening anyone's year.

Released 2nd February 2009