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.

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 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 6/01/06.

Long Mountain Rag (Original Fingerstyle Guitar)

Long Mountain Rag was named in honor of Mauna Loa (Hawaiian for “Long Mountain”), the Big Island of Hawaii’s largest mountain and also the largest active (though not erupting as of this post) volcano on Earth.  Measured from its base on the ocean floor, Mauna Loa is the second tallest mountain in the world, topped only by neighboring Mauna Kea (whose peak is 120 feet higher). Long Mountain Rag was influenced by both Bluegrass and Slack Key musical styles.   Hope you enjoy.

Jonquils of Spring

An improvised portrait, Jonquils of Spring features a melody outlined with harmonics and played with a slightly wobbly tempo. A cool sunny spring day helped bring out the mood, and relatively fresh set of strings helped bring out the chimes. Hope you enjoy.

Kona Snow

Kona Snow is another improvisatory piece recorded for my “Awake Again” project, which included a handful of songs that were connected by mostly shorter and improvisatory ‘transitions’ such as this. This song is named for the early spring blooming of the coffee trees on the slopes of Hualalai. People merrily dubbed the effect of white blossoms covering row after row of coffee trees “Kona Snow.” At the time I recorded this song, I was living next to a coffee orchard in Holualoa, Hawaii, just mauka of Kailua Kona. The setting amidst a wonderful agricultural tradition over a century old inspired me probably more than I knew at the time. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 6/20/09.

Hand Dancing

Hand Dancing started out as an introductory fingerpicking study I wrote for students back when I was teaching guitar full time at a music store. I kept the song in my set for a number of years, playing it on both nylon and steel string. This version was recorded as a demo for my “Awake Again” project. The wallpaper shows me with my old Taylor 310ce that I used to record this song. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 6/20/09.

Keiki Slack Key on Steel String

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.

Transition One (3/16/09)

Here is an improvisatory piece recorded for a project I had a few years back. The idea behind the project, called “Awake Again,” was to have a handful of songs that were connected by mostly shorter and improvisatory ‘transitions’ that would act as both glue and palette cleanser between the slightly more structured songs. The wallpaper shows me with my old Taylor 310ce that I used to record this song. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 3/16/09.

Makalawena, Original 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.