Uke Box Hero: The Boulder Creek Riptide Ukulele

There's been a big ukulele surge these past few years, and with virtuosos like Jake Shimabukuro, neo-native crooners like the late Israel "IZ" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole and hipster educators like Jumpin' Jim Beloff drawing attention to this long historied instrument, there is a world of tablature instruction, videos, tricks and tips to be had.

I started poking around the internet for info and found a nice tab of Paul McCartney's "Ram On", from his solo album "Ram". I'm not sure I ever realized that it was a uke playing the chords to that tune, but I've been listening to the whole album regularly since it came out in 1971. My brother ordered it from Columbia House on reel-to-reel! George Harrison was also a big fan of the ukulele, and one of the most moving moments in the "Concert For George" DVD is McCartney's version of "Something", which falls very nicely on the "C" tuning of a standard ukulele.I dabbled a bit with both of these tunes in order to have something to play during this review.

Boulder Creek is a guitar company with a fresh approach to ukuleles. The ECUT-2V Tenor Cutaway A/E model I reviewed has a solid spruce top, rosewood back and sides, two soundholes and a cutaway - this is no Arthur Godfrey box. Sporting a 3.25 -inch body depth and a 26.25" scale, the Riptide pumps out a lot of sound, and with one of the soundholes pointing towards your ears, it's easy to hear in a jam session.

Plug it in and the UK-300T pickup/preamp puts your tremolo picking and snappy strumming front and center. The unobtrusive preamp includes a tuner.The tuning gears look great and work perfectly. The Gloss Vintage Natural finish was flawless and a peek inside with a flashlight revealed neat and clean bracing and no traces of dripping glue. The action was low and buzz-free.

I'm convinced there is a place for a ukulele in my guitar collection, especially for studio work. The sound is similar to a capoed classical guitar, but having the octave-tuned G on top suggest a banjo-esque melodic vibe. Very handy when you are looking to place something in a track to give a song a unique feel.

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