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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 26, 2005


Trio's 'Heart' disc a beauty — inside, out

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

A vocal-instrumental trio sings from the heart, amid smart, glossy packaging.

A local trouper, with recent roots in New York, yearns for an Island homecoming and connection — and could score with this expressive collection of originals that are suitable for varied musical tastes.

A Kaua'i-based folk singer has ambition to spare, though her originals require special handling.

"FROM MY HEART (ALOHA WAU IA 'OE)" by Hawai'i Loa; Mega Productions

Genre: Traditional Hawaiian and hapa-haole.

Distinguishing notes: Hawai'i Loa is comprised of Bobby Kahihikolo, vocals, electric bass and guitar; Herb Lee Jr., vocals, tiple, 'ukulele and guitar; and Eddie Palama, vocals and steel guitar. The music, like the packaging, pays homage and respect to the spirit of old Hawai'i, with some contemporary turns. The trio, at home at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider's Banyan Courtyard, breezes through an eclectic but effective array of songs, from the familiar ("Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha," "Pua Hone") to the new ("Kai'ulani," penned by the trio plus Hank Iida, with Hawaiian lyrics by Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett). "Ke Kali Nei Au," the classic wedding favorite (with Amy Hanaiali'i doing the soprano's part) is mostly for visitors; "Sushi in Hawai'i" can be subtitled Sushi 101, offering food for thought. Palama's steel wizardry on "Sand" and Mapuana" are solid, old-school instrumentals, and the trio's "Promise Me Again" is expressly written and performed for the ritual of repeating your marital vows.

The outlook: Island Heritage, distributor of the disc, imparts its sleek and savvy design elements into this CD, giving it an instantly appealing gloss; other local acts should be so lucky to have this embellishment.

Our take: Like the title says, this one clearly comes from the heart.

"Blue Hawaiian Moonlight" by Hawai'i Loa. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"ALOHA MILES AWAY" by Scott Katsura; Airtime Recording Co.

Genre: World music.

Distinguishing notes: Scott Katsura used to be Scott Allan; living in the Big Apple for many years no doubt has made him homesick and yearn for Island ways. This collection, with Katsura co-composing all tunes with David Velarde, offers an aural grab bag of sentiments, largely about things and themes relating to Island life, often with hidden meanings or alternate interpretations. Production values are high; the fare is as wide as his imagination, stretching boundaries and fusing unlikely motifs. "Bird of Paradise" could be literally about a bird in flight or a metaphor for a spirit who directs and leads; "Where I Belong" could be detailing the importance of music in one's life, or a partner who provides love and companionship to yield harmony; "Aloha Miles Away" could be a postcard about life afar or about comfort of having a song in your heart. The tunes are varied, in style and in texture, ranging from a techno-pop "Mahalo America" to an intriguing "Kalikimaka" with riffs and flourishes that sound like they might have been made for a Bollywood flick. Yes, there's even an in-Japanese version of "Where I Belong," linked to his Asian heritage.

The outlook: An intriguing and fascinating mirror of a show-biz veteran still seeking his stripes in this marketplace. There's a wealth of expressive material here, for a multitude of audiences — the hipster, the discophile, the pop music fan, or simply the curious. Clever use of slipper images on the CD's back cover and on the disc itself; however, it would have been mo' bettah with slippahs.

Our take: With deejay support and the right showcase, Katsura could finally make a connection.

"Shakahula (keep it real)" by Scott Katsura. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"ISLAND ROSE" by Millicent Cummings; Jai Ma Music

Genre: Folk, world music.

Distinguishing notes: Using her first name as her signature, Millicent possesses a folksy, often country-infused sound linked to her love and admiration for Hawai'i (well, specifically Kaua'i, where she lives). She integrates her experiences and memories (she's lived in New York and San Francisco and other cities in-between) and brings worldly vision to her acoustic plate. "Stand by Love," written for Kaua'i students and with vocal and guitar back-up by Ken Emerson, jumps out; the title track pays homage to Princess Kai'ulani.

The outlook: Ambition outshadows commerciality; while the folk element is earnest, it lacks widespread appeal. This one's clearly a labor of love.

Our take: Requires special handling to attract an audience and maintain airplay.

"For Real" by Millicent Cummings. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

Reach Wayne Harada at 525-8067, wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, or fax 525-8055.