Folk Uke – People are Talking about “Small One”


The singing, songwriting and ukulele and guitar strumming duo of Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, known as Folk Uke, boast a fascinating stylistic DNA with distinctive and winning twists to it.

With endearingly sweet and lovely vocals and melodies, they adeptly craft and deliver original songs that can be provocative, profane, and pointed as well as uproariously funny. Case in point is their new single, “Small One,” their well-aimed stab at pathological narcissism, bullying, and male braggadocio that’s ideally suited for the current state of the nation and election season.

Folk Uke explain that the objectionable behavior of a number of public figures fed into the song. Its words call to mind many men whose misogyny and abuse reflect an overcompensation for shortcomings in their masculinity: “With abuse of power, you’re man of the hour/Stopping to trample on each precious flower/Do you mind if I don’t have this dance?/Keep your VIP-ness in your pants.”

 A clever animated video for “Small One” was created by musician and visual artist Micah Nelson (Amy’s brother) and his wife Alex Dascalu Nelson. The couple, aka Particle Kid & Sister Lu, has made similar videos for Micah’s future-folk solo project Particle Kid and psych-punk orchestra Insects vs. Robots. He also plays with his brother Lukas in the group Promise of the Real, who have backed Neil Young on recordings and in concert. Folk Uke has also posted a lyrics video for the song on YouTube (links below).

“Small One” does have its application to today’s political mood. “We have to point out what is dividing us so that we can become united,” says Cathy. Amy adds, “it’s not black-brown versus white. It’s love versus hate. There are more of us who love,” 

“I think that life is just so heavy already that we make music to soothe ourselves and make ourselves laugh.” Cathy concludes. And in doing so they provide comfort and healing laughter to an ever-growing community of listeners. Amy and Cathy are backed by a blue-ribbon roster of players on “Small One.” The recordings began just before coronavirus lockdown with producer and fellow Austin, TX resident Jeff Klein (My Jerusalem).

Thanks to file sharing, the track is graced with remote contributions by Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters, Wallflowers) on keyboards, Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses) on bass, JT Bates (Bonny Light Horseman/Big Red Machine) on percussion, Matt Pynn (Dwight Yoakam, Miley Cyrus) on pedal steel, and Walker Lukens and McKenzie Griffin on backing vocals. 

Folk Uke hail from two of America’s foremost musical families. Cathy is the daughter of longtime folk music star Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter of American musical icon Woody Guthrie. Amy is the daughter of country music legend Willie Nelson. Both fathers have appeared on Folk Uke recordings.

Yet as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer observes, “They might have famous musical parents, but… Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie are deserving of recognition in their own right.” The two met and bonded in the late 1990sin San Diego when they both worked at Croce’s, a restaurant and bar run by Ingrid Croce, the widow of singer-songwriter Jim Croce. Soon after the first time they hung out, Amy took Cathy to buy her first ukulele.

They began writing songs together but approached any music career quite informally, eventually debuting as performers at Woody Fest, the annual Oklahoma gathering that celebrates the legacy of Cathy’s grandfather. In 2005, Folk Uke released their self-titled first album on their own label. American Songwriter hailed it as  “likely to be the best folk record out today, and I’m not folking around.” Reincarnation followed in 2011; their most recent album, Starfucker, was issued in 2016.

They’ve charmed listeners with sometimes quite irreverent and NSFW songs deceptively delivered with their honeyed voices and harmonies like “Shit Makes the Flowers Grow,” “Motherfucker Got Fucked Up” (their No. 1 Spotify global hit that was heard on “Orange is the New Black” which Vanity Fair noted made a scene “even better when two voices begin to harmonize so sweetly it’ll take you a moment to realize exactly what they’re saying… you can’t help having this mellifluous, macabre tune stuck in your head.”) and “Knock Me Up.”

The duo’s distinctly yin-yang approach enables them to tackle tough topics with humorous leavening and irony. They also skewer aspects of the music business that they grew up around on “Starfucker” and “BJ to a DJ.”

The pair’s abundant charms have won them a burgeoning following of fans as well as enthusiastic musical peers, including Snoop Dogg, who notes how “They’re off the motherfucking chain…Dope as fuck.” With three albums to their credit, they’ve played international tours, had a song featured on the soundtrack to “Orange is the New Black” and tracks in such films as “Indie Jonesing,” “The Babymakers” “G7,” “Social Animals” and “Super Troopers 2.” Folk Uke have also opened shows for a variety of artists such as X, The Jayhawks, Tommy Stinson, Kinky Friedman, Shooter Jennings, Wye Oak, Dan Mangan and Dog Trumpet.

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