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.
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.
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.
Here is another Ray Kane cover – this time his classic song Punahele. According to the Dancing Cat liner notes, Punahele (“favorite” or “pet”) came to Ray “one night in 1938 at Zablan’s Beach in Nanakuli. ‘Back in those days there were no cars, it was pitch black. So I sit there in the dark in the nice cool breeze and I hear the waves bouncing on the sand and see the moonlight flicker on the water. It inspired me, something so nice. So mellow. That’s what gave me my inspiration.’”
Similar to other songs Ray composed on the beach (Keiki Slack Key for example), this mellow laid back songs exemplifies Ray’s nahenahe approach that to me represents the archetype of ‘old style’ slack key. Like Keiki Slack Key, Punahele is one of the first slack key songs I learned, and has stayed on my setlists ever since. I recently improvised a few new licks into the song, and recorded a half dozen takes – some 5-6 minutes long. I think this short three and a quarter minute version gets the point across though. Hope you enjoy.
Here is my arrangement of Si Bheag, Si Mhor (Little Fairy, Big Fairy), reportedly the first song composed by famous 17th century bard Turlough O’Carolan. This version of the song is played a little on the slower side of what you normally hear, but I may record a slightly more uptempo version later on. I think the song works well both ways to be honest, one of the many interesting things about it. Hope you enjoy.
Here is my Clarence White inspired arrangement of the Bluegrass classic, “Banks of the Ohio,” played fingerstyle with a thumbpick (rather than flatpicked or cross-picked).
This little improv bit, dubbed Plaid Blues, was recorded between takes of another song I was working on and needed a break from. Sometimes it’s good to switch gears while recording (especially when recording at home) and work on another song or just do some improvisation and see what comes out. You may not always get a polished result, but you can return to working again on whatever it is you took a break from with a refreshed feeling.
This fingerstyle acoustic guitar version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is posted as a tribute to the World Series winning Chicago Cubs. I’m not a huge baseball fan – I don’t really have time to keep up with sports in general – but the Cubs wining the World Series and breaking one of the longest droughts around was a great excuse to dust off and play this song. This version is based on one I heard in a TV commercial five or more years ago. Anyway, it’s a fun little song to play; hope you enjoy. Play ball.
Appearing as an interlude on The Wall, here is the guitar part from the end of Is There Anybody Out There? Originally done on a nylon string guitar, I think this song works well (and like it a little better) on steel string. This is one of the first songs I learned on guitar from one of my first guitar teachers. Years later, I taught the arrangement to some of my students – both using a pick and fingerstyle. It’s a great moody instrumental, and an arguably underappreciated acoustic piece from the classic rock canon. Hope you enjoy.