Like many, my first exposure to Cyril’s solo recordings came through his amazing albums recorded for the Dancing Cat label, including the “6 & 12 String Slack Key” album on which “Young Street Blues” is featured.This particular song was highlighted for me in Mark Hanson’s excellent book of slack key transcriptions, which featured this among other songs by Cyril and other slack key legends.
The liner notes to the album tell a story of Cyril writing the song at a recording studio on Young Street in 1991.I seem to recall another story, told by Cyril at a performance, about Cyril living in an apartment on Young Street and feeling kind of restless.Young Street, starts (or ends) in Honolulu’s Mo’ili’ili neighborhood, running between King Street and Beretania, through Makiki, to Thomas Square Park near the Honolulu Museum of Art.I recall Cyril talking along the lines of how Young Street was sandwiched between these prominent streets and landmarks in a kind of limbo, being neither here nor there.I think the song (and ‘that note’) speak to such a restless vibe… but also a sense of playfulness.
Unusually for his solo work, Cyril uses Taro Patch tuning – the most common slack key tuning, but not one featured as often as the C and D tunings Cyril favored.Cyril’s style is at once both muscular and nuanced, with deep tunings and sometimes the added jangle of a 12 string guitar – it’s a ‘large’ sound.I tried to capture that feel here by tuning down to a lower register.This song was fun to play and record.Hope you enjoy.
Here is another version of the Ray Kane classic “Keiki Slack Key” I recorded on my Taylor 414ce-NR nylon 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.Hope you enjoy.
“Hualalai Sunrise” was inspired by the morning sunrises in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i.Much of North Kona – from Kalaoa where I spent much of my early childhood to Holualoa where I later lived – can see the sun shining over the top ridges of Hualalai in the morning, bathing its warm light over the slopes from the summit to the ocean.This is an early version of this song, though I have improvised several slightly different versions since.Hope you enjoy.
From the vaults, here is an old recording of a slack key medley performed during an informal kanikapila at what was then the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort Hotel (it has since changed hands from Sheraton).The medley starts out with a rendition of Little Grass Shack, followed by the classic Pua Tuberose.Hope you enjoy.
Here is a version of the classic Johnny Noble song “Hula Blues” recorded on nylon string guitar.Hula Blues is a steel guitar and slack key staple – a quick check of my iTunes library shows over a dozen versions by everyone from Sol Ho’opi’i to Sonny Chillingworth, Led Ka’apana, Leonard Kwan, Bobby Ingano, as well as separate versions from Gabby Pahinui and his son Cyril.This song is fun to play and captures a certain energy that many find appealing.Hope you enjoy.
Here’s an isolated track that I recorded for a collaboration a few years ago.That particular collaboration didn’t end up coming together, so I thought I would release this track as a stand alone piece.Hope you enjoy.
This video features a collection of Ki Ho’alu a/k/a Hawaiian Slack Key guitar instrumental covers I have performed, recorded, and assembled here for your listening pleasure.These are songs by various slack key legends such as Gabby Pahinui, Ray Kane, Leonard Kwan, Keola Beamer, Fred Punahoa, Sonny Chillingworth, Atta Isaacs, Dennis Kamakahi, and Ledward Ka’apana – all slack key guitar masters who have been influential to me as well as many others.This compilation includes both energetic and relaxed tunes, though I’d say the overall vibe is relaxing.I like to listen tosome of those longer “relaxing music” videos while working on the computer and became inspired to produce some videos featuring my own performances.Hope you enjoy.
“Meadows” is a slack key song I wrote during a full moon in Kailua-Kona.I think the song was influenced by the night air and night sounds – the occasional chirp of geckos, the distant sounds of traffic on Mamalahoa Highway and the waves in the ocean.Hope you enjoy.
Here is an alternate take of “Punahoa Special,” this one recorded with a Telefunken M60 microphone.Punahoa Special is a signature showpiece of legendary slack key master Fred Punahoa.This is a song I was fortunate enough to learn directly from Led Ka’apana, one that Led had in turn learned directly from Fred himself.Though Fred Punahoa never made a full album under his own name, he did make a notable appearance on the Waimea Music Festival album, in addition to fostering amazing talents of the next generation such as Led and Sonny Lim.“Punahoa Special” is an often covered song in the slack key canon, and might also be the most popular song in Mauna Loa slack key tuning.Hope you enjoy.
Here’s an alternate take of Keola Beamer’s Mino’aka (Smile), from his awesome 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.