Today’s song from the vaults, “Waimea Ride,” is a slack key improvisation that blossoms from a familiar type of descending figure. Though often used as part of a turnaround, this type of walk down has also been featured as a melodic device in a number of songs, most notably Leonard Kwan’s classic signature tune Opihi Moe Moe. I also recall Ozzie Kotani using it in some of his songs. Anyway, I thought the descending figure and overall pace of this improv might evoke the picture of a Paniolo riding downslope on horseback, ergo the title. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 1/11/08.
Today we explore the use of Hawaiian koa as a tonewood, also discussing the wood’s origins in mauka forests in Hawai’i, its historical uses in native Hawaiian culture to modern day usage, and forestry stewardship. Koa is a bright, relatively dry tonewood with punchy low-mids; clear, sparkly highs; and sweet chiming overtones. Not only is koa a good sounding wood with a strong heritage, but it is also a beautiful wood that can exhibit stunning figuring. Koa guitars are excellent for jazz, folk and rootsy fingerstyle, and slack key among other applications.
Recorded with a Taylor K22ce (solid koa grand concert with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.
Mino’aka (Smile) is a short, sweet song from slack key master Keola Beamer’s Soliloquy album. Soliloquy is one of my favorite Dancing Cat era albums from Keola and a highly recommended listen. Keola’s book is one of the first I picked up when I really delved into the slack key style years ago, and this was one of my favorite songs featured in the book. In fact, I also recommend Keola’s book for beginner to intermediate fingerstyle players who are looking to learn some slack key. Although the version I recorded here is at a slightly faster tempo, I hope it still captures the original’s relaxed feel. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.
Here is an improvisation I did based on Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” This classic tune is a popular piece in the slack key repertoire and often one of the first things people learn when exploring Drop C tuning. Most listeners of modern day Hawaii radio will recognize Silver Threads as the slack key passage quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, a beloved song in the islands in its own right. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and Neumann TLM 102 microphone.
Here are an alternate take and a remix of my fingerstyle guitar arrangement of Auld Lang Syne. It’s a slack key tinged version with an added bridge/transition, but otherwise follows the familiar melody closely.
Remix of original post:
Happy New Year!
Both takes recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze HD gauge set) and a single Beyerdynamic MC 930 microphone in Honolulu, Hawai’i 12/30/14.
Here is an original slack key song I named for Kaiminani Drive in Kalaoa, North Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kaiminani Drive is a main mauka-makai road that connects the Queen Kaahumanu and Mamalahoa highways (lower and upper roads, respectively). It also runs through the Kona Palisades neighborhood where I lived for a number of years as a child. Back then, the neighborhood was less developed, and my friends and I would build tree houses and play in the vacant lots. We could also watch the planes come and go at Kona International Airport at Keahole Point (KOA), and had easy access to then-uncrowded OTEC (Wawaloli) and Pine Trees (Kohanaiki) beaches. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.
Dust Yourself Off is a slack key influenced fingerstyle song from my Awake Again project. I hear the song as imbued with a sense of renewal and starting a new journey. This was to be the first full length song in the setlist, preceded by only a brief instrumental introduction. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 2/24/09.
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.
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.
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.