Mino’aka (Smile) is a short, sweet song from slack key master Keola Beamer’s 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.
Here is an alternate take of my fingerstyle rendition of Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Eric wrote the song about his then-wife Pattie Boyd, who had already inspired great songs from Eric and previous husband George Harrison. This song has been the theme to many a high school prom, and its simple yet tasteful melody has held up over the years. In keeping with that, my arrangement here is fairly straight forward: it doesn’t move around the neck very much or have any unusual chord voicings. Hope you enjoy it.
Recorded in Honolulu, Hawaii 4/27/15.
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.
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.
Iris has a lot of harmonics, which creates a light, chimey atmosphere. A thunderstorm rolled in while I was recording and gave some interesting punctuation to the take. I’ll probably try to record another version of this song, but thought the lightness of the song coupled with the thunderstorm left an interesting contrast. Hope you enjoy.
Morning and Night started out as a fingerpicking study I wrote for one of my students way back when. I added a little to the study to perform it as a slow, relaxing solo piece and it has stayed in my repertoire ever since.
A few years back I decided to write a harmony part for the song, which I almost forgot about until I found a demo take while combing through some old files. I think it’s interesting to hear the song both with and without the harmony. Hope you enjoy both versions.