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Amelia Coburn Amelia Coburn
Album: Amelia Coburn & Friends Live
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 23

To most people an album of mostly cover versions performed on the ukulele isn't an exciting prospect. Fortunately this is a world away from some X-Factor wannabe strumming away on the underground for a few flung coins. Amelia Coburn has been playing the uke since her early teens, digging through records to find new songs to perform. It has resulted in what can only be described as an eclectic mix on this limited edition live album recorded at Arc in Stockton back in May.

It's not on many records that you find songs by David Bowie, Elton John, The Clash, and a Richard Sherman Disney classic. While it may sound an odd blend, it works perfectly, mainly due to Coburn's exceptional vocal range. The odd cover may cleave a little close to the original, but there are still plenty of tracks here which offer up surprises. An early highlight is a cover of Are Friends Electric on (I presume) Xylophone, which is far more wonderful then it has any right to be. This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us is an horrendously difficult song, but Coburn makes it seem as easy and natural as singing a nursery rhyme.

There is one track that is worth the price of the CD alone. Joined by fellow "ukulady" Natalie Friesem, their Sex Pistols medley Anarchy In The Ukulele is a sheer joy, every bit as delightful as the concept promises. In amongst the punk, new wave and rock music, there are three treasures to be found. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that, Sex Pistols aside, the best songs are the originals. Of these, In The Arms Of Morpheus is a real gem, a song about sleep paralysis using the sea as metaphor. 17th of July was inspired by the Richard Linklater film Before Sunrise, and a brief encounter of her own in Budapest. Song Of The Sea Rover has already been released as a single, a morality tale of greed and selfishness with pirates, and it's a very welcome addition.

Amelia Coburn & Friends gets better and better with every play, and there are covers here that will move into your head and evict the originals from your memory. That the best songs are (mostly) originals is the really exciting part. The potential is staggering, and I can't wait for an album full of pirates and death and stuff (which apparently is her usual fare). At one point, an audience member shouts out, "we love you Amelia", and on this form it's not hard to see why. If you haven't yet heard Amelia Coburn perform, prepare to fall in love.

Adam Jenkins