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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 10, 2006

ISLAND SOUNDS
Grammys influence slack-key releases

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Editor's note: Today, Wayne Harada's Island Sounds column joins the TGIF section as a regular feature.

With Grammy season nearing, it's no surprise that the surge of Hawaiian slack-key CDs continues. The latest two are multi-artist compilations, one from Maui and the other from O'ahu, and both are likely contenders in Grammy balloting.

Meanwhile, Kaua'i's Papa'a Bay Boys make a bid for Honolulu recognition.

"LEGENDS OF HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY: LIVE FROM MAUI" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS; DANIEL HO CREATIONS

  • Genre: Ki ho'alu instrumentals, with some vocals.

  • Distinguishing notes: Recorded live at The Ritz-Carlton resort at Kapalua, this 12-song collection features a host of slack-key greats.

    The disc opens with Ledward Ka'apana's tranquil " 'Opihi Moemoe" and closes with a collaboration by George Kahumoku Jr., Keoki Kahumoku and Da 'Ukulele Boys on "Ka'aahi Kahului," the train song by Palani Vaughan.

    In between, there's a wealth of classic showmanship Cyril Pahinui's vocal on "Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha," Dennis Kamakahi's "Ahulili" vocal, Martin Pahinui's "Ka 'Ano'i" vocal, Ozzie Kotani's "Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua/Papakolea Medley," Richard Ho'pi'i's "Papalina Lahilahi" vocal, Bobby Ingano's "Hula Blues" instrumental, Daniel Ho's "Kumu Mele" vocal, and George Kahumoku Jr.'s "Aloha 'Oe" vocal. Daniel Ho mixed and mastered the session, capturing the live quality complete with applause and some impromptu chatter. Tracks with voices add earnest emotion to the spirit of the tunes.

  • Our take: Since "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 1" also a collection of live ki ho'alu performances earned a Grammy Award last year for Best Hawaiian album, this one surely is a contender. The same team was involved.

    "Aloha O'e" by George Kahumoku Jr. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    "HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY KINGS" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS; RHYTHM & ROOTS RECORDS

  • Genre: Ki ho'alu instrumentals, with vocals.

  • Distinguishing notes: With an eclectic roster from Jack Johnson to Ledward Ka'apana, this session captures ki ho'alu's growing popularity and infiltration into new musical genres. Whether in a traditional Hawaiian song or adapted to a pop beat, ki ho'alu is king for these 15 acts.

    Johnson's "Better Together" is folk with slack-key finesse, while the Kamakahi dad-and-son entry by Dennis and David, "Jubilation," offers a religious undercurrent.

    There's so much more to embrace, including Glenn Smith's "Maori Brown Eyes" instrumental-with-vocal rendering, Paul Togioka's "Kekaha Chimes," Makana's "Na Po'o Ka La," Ledward Ka'apana's "Pau Pilikia," Michael Kaawa's "Sepania Slack," Danny Carvalho's "Song for Allie," Dwight Kanae's "Lokelani's Lullaby," and Milton Lau's "Song for Erin."

    Vocally, Bobby Moderow's "Sanoe" also contributes to the variety quotient. Crisp and clear sound throughout; acts are pictured and brief liner notes provide a quick snapshot of the musical artists.

  • Our take: While there might be quibbling about the "king" reference to all participants here, surely slack key is king right now.

    "Better Together" by Jack Johnson. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    "PAPA'A BAY: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN" BY PAPA'A BAY BOYS; WRM RECORD

  • Genre: World music, island contemporary.

  • Distinguishing notes: The Papa'a Bay Boys are a Kaua'i-based group featuring Russell Wellington, Darrell Rapozo, Keala Kau'anuhi, Ryan McKeague, Jason Suzawa and Anson Lardizabel. Their relaxed sound has elements of pop, soul and Jawaiian just the kind of fare you'd expect at the neighborhood lounge or a variety show with other start-up combos. McKeague is the lead singer; the repertoire and the spirit have echoes of the Mana'o Company of yesteryear, but no wonder: Danny Kennedy had a hand in launching this CD. It's easy-listening, toe-tapping fare that the Papa'a squad excels in "E-Z," "Sweet Like Sugar," "Rocking W Yodel" and "Papa'a Bay" have momentum and tempo that appeal to youthful listeners.

    "Kaua'i My Home" reflects the earnest, simple outlook of the band and its 'aina and could emerge as an unofficial anthem for all of Kaua'i.

  • Our take: Already a favorite on the Garden Isle, the Papa'a Bay Boys are one step closer to Honolulu recognition with this release. Feel-good vibes from a band that has the goods.

    "Sweet Like Sugar" by Papa'a Bay. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.