Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
Grammy Award Nominees
Lono is an artist who has gone in search of his roots, and found a vein of gold. After a Maui-centric career playing island-style pop and cover tunes (including five albums and a “day job” as a lifeguard), a visit with old friends inspired him to explore his own history and connections to more traditional Hawaiian music. In 2004, his first “Old Style” release signaled the direction he would take, as he began to record and perform exclusively what he termed “the folk music of Hawai`i.”
While all of his albums have featured Lono on almost all instruments and vocals, this third volume showcases his songwriting strengths as well (he’s also the only performer throughout, on guitar, `ukulele, bass, mandolin and percussion.) A wonderful mix of Hawaiian and English lyrics, along with instrumentals, most of the numbers also have a connection to the friendly island of Moloka`i, where several members of his family reside, and where Lono now makes his base of operations at the homestead of Ho`olehua.
Having shown his respect and honor for Hawaiian music and traditions of the past, Lono is an excellent representative of Hawaiian music’s future.
As one of the acclaimed masters of Hawaiian music, from the pop sounds of the ‘70s “renaissance,” through his own family’s multi-generational musical history, to being one of the best-known proponents of kī hō’alu guitar, leave it to Keola Beamer to open up another set of doors with his latest disc. Using slack key technique as a starting point, he explores classical and world music forms throughout.
Short romantic-style classical pieces by composers such as Erik Satie (whose “Gymnopedies” long ago entered the guitar repertoire) and Maurice Ravel are joined by more experimental compositions by Igor Stravinsky, Alberto Ginastera and nuevo tango master Astor Piazzolla; other world-music forms are represented in traditional Spanish and Brazilian numbers.
In addition, there are a few winter-themed selections (including one that incorporates the seasonal standard “Little Drummer Boy”); successful new-age pianist, fellow slack key musician, Dancing Cat Records founder and old friend George Winston also makes a couple of appearances, and many of the works feature arrangements by acclaimed Irish guitarist Daniel O’Donoghue.
This is an album that crosses so many boundaries, record stores will be challenged to know where it should be stocked, as it will please the ears of Hawaiian, classical and new-age fans.
(Keola Beamer will be touring in the area in the spring, for performances with John Keawe, April 21 in Bremerton, then with Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai in Olympia and Kirkland, May 4 and 5.)
Various Artists: “Mea Makamae – Hawaiian Treaures”
Nathan Aweau: “ Hawai`i Classic Series, vol. 2: Hula”
Keali`i Blaisdell: “Keeping It Traditional”
Brother Noland: “Mystical Fish”
Taimane Gardner: “Loco Princess”
Bobby Ingano: “Steel Reflections”
George Kahumoku, Jr.: “Nā `Ano `Ano: The Seeds”
Nā Leo: “Where I Live There Are Rainbows”
Jeff Peterson: “Slack Key Guitar: The Artistry of…”
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