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.
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.
Today’s demo from the vaults is Purple Orchid, a mellow slack key song played on nylon string guitar. The picture of me is in an ohana I had in Kailua Kona. Most of my recordings from this period were either done in that ohana or down by Magic Sands beach. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
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 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.
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.
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.
Today’s song is a demo from years back called “Earlybird Sunrise.” Earlybird is a fingerstyle song with an expansive palette and ambitions of invoking a wide landscape. I also thought it would be fun to pull an old photo of myself – replete with long hair – from around the time I recorded this song. I have my old Taylor 310ce in the photo – a trusty guitar – but Earlybird was probably recorded with a budget model from another brand that was nonetheless fairly playable. It’s in an alternate tuning that I haven’t used since and I can’t recall how to play the song, but I still find it fun to listen to and hope you will enjoy as well.
Today’s song from the vaults is a cover of My Morning Jacket’s “At Dawn.” The song and its eponymous album came to me at a formative period, becoming both anthem and inspiration for pursing musical goals in life. Sometimes you wonder if music guides you in a certain direction, finds you at the right moment, or if you attract it when you need change and encouragement. There’s a Nick Drake style intro not on the original cut, but it seemed to work. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded in Honolulu, 9/20/14.
One day in the fall of 2012, I sat down to record a set of improvised songs with a Taylor dreadnought acoustic guitar. I improvised five original songs and two versions of Amazing Grace. With only one or two false starts, they were mostly first takes. The set was nothing really mind altering, but it had some cool songs with good vibes – so I considered it a success. It’s not the kind of thing I do often – in fact I haven’t done the exercise since, haven’t played any of the original songs again, and don’t consider it the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. Yet somehow it stands out in my mind as a creative milestone, a memorable event. Sometimes it’s important to break out of the mold with such experiments to reach a new frame of mind, a new level. This was the fifth song in the set, “Star Waltz.”
Recorded in Louisville, Kentucky, 9/29/12.