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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 2, 2006

ISLAND SOUNDS
Girlas offer sweet harmonies; 2 ukes make a joyous sound

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

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The Girlas are twentysomethings with plentysomething to offer including fresh sounds and fresh views on the many layers of love.

What's better than one 'ukulele? Two. And on one track, three.

And ki ho'alu continues to soar and impress.

"NOW OR NEVER" BY THE GIRLAS; KOTO RECORDS

  • Genre: World music, acoustic folk.

  • Distinguishing notes: The Girlas are six twentysomethings Tiffa Cruz, Carly Smith, Candy Diaz, Kelli Heath, Anela Choy and Connie Cruz with vision and voice, who write their own tunes and trade time singing lead. Their acoustic sound incorporates several genres of music, including folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, light rock and ki ho'alu, and their songs examine the many facets of love, friendship and kinship. "Make You Mine," "Nightshades," "Ghost," "Crazy," "And I Go" are splendid sound pictures, eloquent and textured. The 12 titles create an alluring portrait of an emerging group with something to say. The harmonies are sweet; the lingering passions sweeter. Think Na Leo with attitude and soul. And zoom in on the riffs provided by a half-dozen guests, including Imua Garza, Mark Lutwak and Vern Ahmad.

  • The outlook: One of the year's best.

  • Our take: The Girlas are great because they're both unpredictable and prolific.

    "STEP 2: 'UKULELES IN PARADISE 2" BY HERB OHTA JR. AND DANIEL HO; DANIEL HO CREATIONS

  • Genre: 'Ukulele instrumentals.

  • Distinguishing notes: Repeating the formula of their first dual-uke project, with Herb Ohta Jr. on the left channel and Daniel Ho on the right, these two strummers know all about balance and pacing. Like a handful of other prime 'ukulele masters, Ohta and Ho champion the uke as a solo instrument, all the while creating a pleasurable listening experience. The acoustic approach remains magical here; the addition of a third 'ukulele on "Song for Anna," tapping the originator of the three-decades-old hit, Ohta-san (Herb Jr.'s dad), makes this a particularly memorable outing. The repertoire scopes a handful of favorites, some vintage, some recent, and also dares to further explore the lasting power of "Over the Rainbow." And the language of the instrument gentle, frolicking, romantic or playful shines through on such savory titles as "Ka Wai Lehua 'A'ala Ka Honua," "Kaimana Hila" and "Sanoe."

  • The outlook: Could be a catalyst to launch the uke into the Hawaiian Grammy mix.

  • Our take: Ohta and Ho are on a roll; a sure-fire chartbuster.

    "SLACK KEY WEST" BY JIM "KIMO" WEST; WESTERNMOST RECORDS

  • Genre: Ki ho'alu.

  • Distinguishing notes: Though Mainland-based, Jim "Kimo" West has had a place for Hawai'i in his heart since his first visit in the mid-1980s. This collection of Island-inspired originals utilizes West's tunings that resulted in his indoctrination to the slack-key genre after he listened to some of the Island greats. The nahenahe flavors he concocts, on a range of Hawai'i-linked titles, clearly suggest he has a flow and fondness for the 'aina. "Kohala No," "Popoke Lolo," "The Sands of Polihale" and "Hana Hou Down" are examples of his creativity and craft; through his roots may be elsewhere, West's clean, crisp and canny interpretations surely should earn him respect and admiration.

  • The outlook: Yet another ki-ho'alu treasure.

  • Our take: Go West and you'll find slack-key paradise.

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.