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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 29, 2001

CD review
Album reflects Pahinui's growth, reverence for roots

 •  Bla Pahinui comes out of musical semi-retirement

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Staff Writer

"Guava Soul" by Bla Pahinui, Mountain Apple, MACD 2071

Bla Pahinui's first recording in about three years is a splendid reflection of his island roots, his flexibility and his musicianship.

"Guava Soul" updates his sound, his looks and musical posture. One minute, he's countrified on "Island Style," updating the tune to suit his Lanakila and Waimanalo roots, and in the next, he's reflective, getting high on "Waimea."

Yet two prime local cuts leave little doubt about Pahinui's roots: "Makapu'u," a bilingual waltz-tempoed place song, and "Manuela Boy," the small-kid-time refrain we all used to sing ("you no mo' hilahila, no mo' five cents, no mo' house ... ") delivered with a fetching ki ho'alu flavor and a very nostalgic and earthy flavor.

His voice is distinctive, not stereotypically beautiful but soulful, and once Pahinui embraces a song, his style puts an unforgettable stamp on it.

The individuality shines, for instance, on the upbeat "Hawaiian Kickboxer," which has echoes of his late father Gabby's style — an impromptu stance and a surprise at each verse, providing an unmistakable Hawaiian experience.

And yes, there is that down-home country mood throughout, the kind of informality that sounds better the more the beer flows.