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Music Review: Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele – The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele

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Anyone bored listening to Dent May will squirm as smiles infectiously spread around the room. On the front cover of his new CD, the bespectacled May looks like a cross between Elton John and Rivers Cuomo. His album, The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele, is one of the most weirdly catchy records of 2009.
                                                                                                                          The NYC Film grad moved back home to the south to make music in a double-wide trailer. Mississippi local’s might shake their heads as May pulls together a myriad of far off sounds like lounge crooning, classic rock, and 70s pop and plops them into one album. While underground music often enjoys stripping down the standard pop form, May shamelessly wears it like a cheesy three-piece suit.

He’s so upbeat that you wonder whether he’s going to swing into a full-on parody. Most of the time, though, his music makes you want to hum and strut around the park or shake your hips while doing the laundry. Like a good concert, the record mixes differently paced songs which flow even when switching genres.

Who knew that a shy nerdy frontman with scruffy looking, indie bandmates could sing so well together? May has a surprisingly rich deep voice that sounds haunting with the echo effect applied to it. Even on the pop songs, he likes crooning, stretching, and filling out every syllable. His other musicians support him with a Beach Boys-like falsetto.

Ever the showman, Dent mixes in silly comedy to win over the squares standing in the back. “God Loves You Michael Chang,” is a fictional story of May comforting the tennis champ whom he’s beaten in a big match. With few low points on the album it’s hard to pick favorite songs. My list of favorites includes “Oh Paris!” “Howard” and “You Can’t Force a Dance Party.”

As much as I enjoyed listening to Dent May and His Magnificent Ukelele, the album never rids itself of a slight novelty feeling. May sometimes quotes too obviously from other popular bands like The Turtles. Thankfully this happens towards the end. On his website, May states some of the songs here are reworkings from an earlier EP. I think he’s a guy worth watching as he continues to improve. But right now he can definitely entertain a crowd in spite of themselves.

4 out of 5 stars

Dent May – Ukulele, Vocals
Michael Bible – Percussion
Jesse M.T. Toussaint – Guitar
Steven Konrad Bevilaqua Jr. – Bass
Jeff Callaway – Trumpet, Trombone
Gerald Menke – Pedal Steel
Sandy Lane – Violin

Dent May’s writing about his current European tour on his website.

Visit his MySpace page for more tour dates as well as music videos for “Howard” and “Meet Me in the Garden.” May really pours on the Elton John vibe in these videos, especially the latter.

Watch now as Dent May and band ambush the patrons of a San Francisco Mexican restaurant during the first episode of the web series Banditos.


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About Kevin Gustafson