Manitoba Hal (Brolund) is a ukulele player based in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, although he was born and raised in Winnipeg. He has raised his profile recently with a couple of fine albums but if you check his web site you’ll find that he has some fourteen in his discography, so prolific is he as a songwriter. For his newest album he’s decided to go back over some of these and collect some of his favourites. He opens with a brief instrumental “Wake Up, Jake” to introduce his grandfather’s 1955 Martin ukulele, he plays a tune which sounds like it may well have been learned from him too but it’s one of his own. “King of the World” is rather more substantial, citing some famous people who have fallen from grace with a tuneful group chorus looking at the fall from the victim’s point of view, letting you rustyfmake your own judgements. “30 Odd Days” is a jaunty little number about a suspected wife killer, the wife’s body has not been found for that period. He plays his electric ukulele with a slide for “Poulet Shack”, a bilingual ditty about a place in the country one could go to for company. A far more somber song is “This Condition”, the condition being extreme poverty in a Christmas setting with Mary arrested as a shoplifter and Jesus in handcuffs. “A Night Like This” he says is ‘about a lonely night in a graveyard longing for lost love’. His last four songs are tough, no nonsense blues: “A Thousand Miles of Blacktop” still aren’t enough, he’s still sitting at the end of the bar. “(Death is) The Cost of the Blues” has him singing from the grave. “Love Carries On” is a gentle acoustic slide guitar-backed song of a working musician making a pledge of love despite her many transgressions during his absences but it is time to move on anyway and “Last Transmission” is an even more somber tale of a suicide. These last four are worth the price of the album alone but the whole album is probably a better indication of what you’d hear at a live show. He was just here as part of a well-received duo show with New Brunswick’s Mike Biggar. Perhaps they’ll come back soon. Check out www.manitobahal.com.

Durham County Poets - January 2020
January 2020 - Kevin Belzner, Big Dave McLean & Tim Williams