Category Archives: Slack Key

LIVE 080 • Punahoa Special (Live at Hawaii Island Slack Key Festival)

Here is a live version of “Punahoa Special” from 2007 (apologies for the camera work :-). This is a song I was fortunate enough to learn directly from Led Ka’apana, one that Led had in turn learned directly from his uncle Fred Punahoa. Though Fred never made a full album, he did make a notable appearance on the Waimea Music Festival album and fostered amazing talents of the next generation such as Led and Sonny Lim. This is an often covered song in the slack key world, and might also be the most popular song in Mauna Loa slack key tuning. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce live at the 25th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival “Kona Style,” at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort in Keauhou, Hawai’i 9/2/07.

LIVE 048 • Slack Key #1 by Sonny Chillingworth

Slack Key No. 1 is a classic showpiece of slack key master Sonny Chillingworth. I first heard it on the Dancing Cat release “Endlessly,” and it also appears on his 1964 solo release “Waimea Cowboy.” The Waimea Cowboy version sounds like it was recorded on an electric guitar, while the version on Endlessly was recorded on acoustic guitar. Both versions are very similar, though with some slight differences. I have incorporated elements from both versions in the arrangement I play. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 057 • Wake Up Slack Key

Wake Up Slack Key (also known as Ho’ala Ki Ho’alu) was one of the first slack key style songs I wrote. It stayed in my set for a number of years, though I haven’t played it much lately. This demo was an early version of the song recorded not long after I bought my first Taylor on eBay, a 310ce that became my main guitar for 9 years. This take among the others in my archive really captures the spirit of the tune. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 5/13/06.

GEAR 512 • Taylor 414ce-NR Review

This video gives an overview of my Taylor 414ce-NR (sorry, forgot to mention the “R” in the video, which designates the rosewood back/sides), along with some sound samples. Taylor makes nylon string guitars in a variety of wood combinations, but just two sizes: Grand Concert (smallest body size) and Grand Auditorium (the next size up from Grand Concert, and their most popular body style in general). Though I often prefer Grand Concert Taylors for steel string work, I chose this Grand Auditorium size model as my nylon string guitar for a couple of reasons. First, the larger GA size worked well with the rosewood back/sides to give a nice, rich bass sound. Second, I do like to use notes on the upper frets, and Taylor’s nylon Grand Auditoriums feature 14 fret necks. With the cutaway, that gives ample access to the upper frets. By comparison, the GC nylon strings are only offered in 12 fret configuration; while they usually come with a cutaway, you also lose a few of the upper frets with that design. Overall, I have found the 414ce-NR to be a practical, playable, and enjoyable way to add a nylon sound to my palette.
Note – the song featured at the beginning/end of the video is an adaptation of Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of Silver Threads Among the Gold, which was also quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, another beloved song in Hawaii.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

LIVE 056 • Sunday Slack Key (steel string guitar)

I originally wrote Sunday Slack Key as a single string melody, using fretted notes on only one string (and the other strings only open). Playing the melody on only one string is a concept I picked up at a jazz guitar clinic – I seem to remember Tal Farlow or Jim Hall proposing the idea as a means for chord melody – and the idea can be useful when arranging a fingerstyle song. Eventually I added a few fretted notes on some other strings, mostly to fill out the bass, yet the fretted notes of the melody remain mainly on one string. The name for the song came to me on a simple, relaxed Sunday, and seemed appropriate. This version of the song was recorded about five years after I wrote it and reflects a few modifications to earlier incarnations. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded at Goldsmith Studios in October, 2011, with a Taylor 310 (Elixir Polyweb medium gauge set) and a pair of Rode NT-5 microphones.

LIVE 055 • Sunday Slack Key (early version, nylon string guitar)

I originally wrote Sunday Slack Key as a single string melody, using fretted notes on only one string (and the other strings only open). Playing the melody on only one string is a concept I picked up at a jazz guitar clinic – I seem to remember Tal Farlow or Jim Hall proposing the idea as a means for chord melody – and the idea can be useful when arranging a fingerstyle song. Eventually I added a few fretted notes on some other strings, mostly to fill out the bass, yet the fretted notes of the melody remain mainly on one string. The name for the song came to me on a simple, relaxed Sunday, and seemed appropriate. This is an early version of the song recorded not long after I wrote it. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a nylon string guitar in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 6/01/06.

LIVE 047 • Keiki Slack Key on Steel String Guitar

Not long ago, I posted a nylon string version of the Ray Kane classic “Keiki Slack Key.” Here is a similar version recorded around the same time, but on steel string guitar. Keiki Slack Key (not to be confused with the Sonny Chillingworth song of the same name) is one of the first slack key songs I transcribed, and has stayed on my setlists ever since. To me, Ray Kane is probably the best example of an ‘old style’ slack key player, and his tracks are always nahenahe. I never got to take a lesson from Ray, though I did get to speak to him and his wife Elodia on the phone once, not long before he passed – a cherished memory. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 044 • Makalawena – Slack Key Guitar

I named this seemingly easygoing yet still restive song after a charmingly beautiful and relatively isolated beach on the Kona Coast. Makalawena is part of that long stretch of white sandy beaches you see right before landing at Kona International Airport at nearby Keahole Point. The beach is generally accessible via a short hike from the neighboring Mahaiʻula Bay section of Kekaha Kai State Park. I remember camping out at Makalawena as a kid, exploring the rare anchialine ponds with their delicate red shrimp, and swimming in the waters of the bay. Today still, the neighboring marsh is a protected nesting ground, home to rare birds such as the Hawaiian coot. The song’s bridge seems to capture the strange sense of converging energies that I feel in special places such as these. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

LIVE 041 • Magic Sands – Slack Key Guitar

Here is a slack key style tune I wrote a while back while hanging out around Magic Sands beach in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. I originally wrote it on an old nylon string guitar. While I have a recording of this song played on steel string already posted, I wanted to go back and do a recording with my nylon string Taylor as well. There aren’t many songs I like to play on both steel and nylon, but this is one of them for some reason. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

LIVE 039 • Henry Street Slack Key

Here is a demo of a song I wrote a while back called Henry Street Slack Key – named for what was then the still developing Henry Street, which runs between Kuakini Highway and Palani Rd in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The street had a lot of places I went to at the time – a healthfood store, a Border’s Books (with a great music selection, in the days when CD’s ruled), Wal-Mart (a place to run into people in small town Kailua-Kona), Safeway, several coffee shops, and a Korean BBQ. This is also one of the few recordings I made with my Larrivee parlor guitar – a rosewood / sitka spruce P-09, which I have since sold. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Larrivée P-09 Parlor guitar (Rosewood / Sitka Spruce) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 8/26/07.

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