Tag Archives: acoustic guitar

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.

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.

Straight Ahead Blues (Demo)

Here is an improvised song from the vaults I dubbed “Straight Ahead Blues.” At the time I recorded this song, I was listening to a lot of the Clapton Unplugged album, which I still enjoy going back to from time to time. Same with the blues on acoustic guitar. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 2/26/09.

Brownsboro Road, Original Fingerstyle

Today’s song from the vaults, Brownsboro Rd., is one of the earlier fingerstyle songs that I wrote. The recording was made in an attic apartment with the windows open on a warm night and features the sound of crickets in the background. Brownsboro Road was the second track on a project I had called Signs Music Has Changed Your Life. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Louisville, KY. Mixed and mastered by Kevin Ratterman.

Raindrops (Original Fingerstyle)

Today’s song from the vaults, Raindrops, starts with the eponymous sound effect of individual raindrops made on the guitar. The rest of the song features recordings I made of light rain and a storm as a backdrop for the song. Raindrops was the closing track on a project I had called Signs Music Has Changed Your Life. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Louisville, KY. Mixed and mastered by Kevin Ratterman.

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.

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.

Earlybird Sunrise (Fingerstyle Demo)

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.