Weird, Fun, Funky and Worth Every Penny
The banjo uke or soprano-ish banjo has been the weird, happy hobo uncle of America's musical past since around the start of the 20th century, it seems. You can spot it tucked into some of the more intricate jazz orchestra photos from New Orleans and Chicago, along with the occasional raccoon coat-wearing arch college funboy during the uke craze of the 1920s. A bit rare yet ever-present. I've always secretly wanted one.
So this mahogany re-issue from Kala took me by surprise at its price point, almost too good to be true. I've had it less than a week but I thought it deserved a cursory review to let you know ... it's kinda amazing, for the money. The neck feels great, the frets are set in nicely, there are no buzzes and the floating bridge is easy to nudge into place for very playable intonation. The very basic nature of the back and headstock really add to the "primitive" vibe while the hardware and head feel like something on a much more expensive instrument. It's loud, but not like the 100-plus-year-old tenor banjo I inherited from my grandfather -- this little guy has a softer, folkier chirp thanks to the Nylagut strings. Not too much sustain, but an even response from string to string across the neck and down the frets.
If you're on the fence, I'd say just get it -- it's simply fun and if nothing else it make any setting a little funkier just sitting off in the background.