Tag Archives: slack key

Punahoa Special (Live at Hawaii Island Slack Key Festival)

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Star Waltz

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.

Magic Sands – Slack Key Guitar

Here is a slack key style tune I wrote a while back while hanging out around Magic Sands beach in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. I originally wrote it on an old nylon string guitar. While I have a recording of this song played on steel string already posted, I wanted to go back and do a recording with my nylon string Taylor as well. There aren’t many songs I like to play on both steel and nylon, but this is one of them for some reason. Hope you enjoy.