Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
Natalie Ai Kamauu: “`I“ (Keko)
Considering the attention it garnered (including a Hōkū Award for Female Vocalist of the Year), it’s easy to forget that three years have passed since Kamauu released her debut album, “`E” (reviewed in these pages in June 2005 and archived at our website). The former Miss Aloha Hula has just issued her second disc, and it’s very much in the same vein. Kamauu has an absolutely lovely voice, with the ability to belt a song out with power when called for, or to drop to a sensual breathiness, or have fun with a lively hula number (and her ha`i – the vocal break between normal and falsetto voice – stands out comfortably in “Kaulana Moloka`i”).
As before, her songwriting skills are a valued element to the album, and she is credited with composing (or co-composing) five selections here. One of the standouts is a sweet power-ballad based on the e.e. cummings poem, “I Carry Your Heart”; you’ll know the poem if you saw the 2005 film, “In Her Shoes.” Not particularly Hawaiian in style, this would be a good number for Broadway/cabaret singers to add to their repertoire. As for other composers’ works, she also includes a great piece from Vickie I`i Rodrigues & Lovey Lui Conn (“Lahela Ku`u Poki`i”), as well as a rather straight-ahead version of “Evergreen” from the Barbra Streisand remake of “A Star Is Born” (mistakenly credited only to Streisand as composer, but Paul Williams co-wrote it with her --- yes, I am a stickler for these kinds of details!)
Much as with her earlier effort, there are excellent musicians on the CD, as well as some clever, jazzy arrangements. Performers include steel guitarist Casey Olsen, bassist Steve Jones, family members such as brother Chad Ai and husband Iolani Kamauu, the kumu hula duo of Michael Casupang and Karl Veto Baker (featured on one of their compositions, “Ka Wai Nahenahe”), and album producer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Dave Tucciarone.
Nā Kama: “E Ola Ke Ali`i“ (Makani) --- The fourth album from this duo-turned-trio, they were in the middle of recording the follow-up to their outstanding award-winning Hawaiian CD, “Kamakolu” (reviewed here July 2006), when they decided to put out a holiday album first. Familiar standards mix with new compositions, a few instrumentals, and re-recordings of a couple songs they had released before adding bassist Danny Naipo to the band a couple of years back.
Kohala: “Christmas” (Palm) --- The acclaimed guitar trio of Charles Michael Brotman, Charlie Recaido and Rupert Tripp, Jr., present a sweet instrumental collection of eleven holiday tunes (most of them familiar standards), with their blend of influences from slack key guitar, jazz and Island-style folk music.
…and a special mention… `Ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro performs in a duet with classical superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Ma’s new holiday collection, “Songs of Joy & Peace” (on Sony Classical). They team up for John Lennon’s song, “Happy Xmas (War is Over).”
Keali`i Reichel: “Kamalei: Collection Two” (Punahele) --- It was just in time for Christmas 2005 that Reichel issued his first “greatest hits” set, and the next one comes out right in time for the holiday three years later.
Israel Kamakawiwo`ole & Mākaha Sons of Ni`ihau: “Unforgettable” (Poki) --- A retrospective collection of the beloved and departed Braddah IZ, both solo and as a member of this influential band; several of the tracks are new remixes.
Keola & Kapono Beamer: “ Hawai`i's Keola & Kapono Beamer” (Hana Ola/Cord Int’l) --- Originally released in 1975 on Tantalus Records, we finally have a well-presented CD release of their very first album, featuring the slightly-controversial “Sweet Okole,” as well as “Mr. Sun Cho Lee.”
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