Last week I read an article in The Shepherd Express, a local alternative newspaper, about an upcoming event featuring Lil Rev, probably my all around favorite local musician. The event was the first annual Milwaukee Ukulele Festival, to be held at The Coffee House. The Coffee House, located inside a Lutheran Church, in the neighborhood of Marquette University, has been hosting musical events in its auditorium for several decades now. The Milwaukee Ukulele Festival was organized by Lil Rev, and put together with the hard work and dedication of both Lil Rev and the Milwaukee Ukulele Club. (The Milwaukee Ukulele Festival also got a write up, by the way, in the Journal Sentinel.) So Saturday I dropped in there to check it out. I must say, it was a very enjoyable evening. I even got to meet Lil Rev's baby daughter.
Though this was a festival dedicated mainly to the ukulele, which I am learning is a very versatile instrument, and though Lil Rev is clearly spending much of his time these days with the ukulele, I hasten to remind, or inform, the reader that Lil Rev is known for much more besides. He is an accomplished musician, whose one man show displays his talents with several instruments, such as the guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, as well as the harmonica, and the kazoo. (Whenever I hear that kazoo it reminds me of the music of Arlo Guthrie, whose movie Alice's Restaurant, generous gift of Father Hollywood, I often enjoy watching.) Lil Rev's main value, out of all the great things that can be said of him, is that he is a great promoter of music of bygone eras, especially American folk and blues.
Lil Rev, true to his own Jewish tradition, also sings traditional Yiddish songs. He has even written one or two of his own. Lately, I must say that I particularly enjoy listening to his CD of Jewish and Yiddish Folksongs, I Can't Keep the Past Behind Me, which you can find here. Imagine an Albanian Lutheran son of a Muslim driving around Milwaukee with Yiddish folk songs blasting on the CD player. There oughta be a law against people like that.