Today’s song from the vaults is Cat Nap Afternoon – a mellow, harmonic laden song with a few little strange notes sprinkled here and there to keep it interesting. Hope you enjoy.
Here is a more recent version of my song “Fair Wind.” The song is named for a boat of the same name that ran snorkel / dive cruises to Kealakekua Bay out of Keauhou Bay – still does – and my parents took me and my friends for a cruise on it for a number of my birthdays.
Bron-Yr-Aur is probably my favorite Led Zeppelin acoustic song. Written by Jimmy Page about a tranquil cottage in the Welsh countryside, the song is meditative and bucolic; it always puts me in a different place whenever I hear it or play it. This is an alternate version recorded on my Taylor K22ce.
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.
Here’s an alternate take of my arrangement of the Springsteen classic I’m on Fire. This is a really cool little song – almost a sketch at under 3 minutes long, but it really creates a great atmosphere in that short amount of time. Hope you enjoy.
Here’s an improv around Nick Drake’s “Horn” I recorded one day between takes of another song I was working on. Appearing as a sort of interlude on the Pink Moon album, Horn is a fascinating little study of a song in its own right. I love the simple, atmospheric melody, and think it translated well to ukulele. Hope you enjoy.
Alternately titled “Paia Morning” or “Paia Kakahiaka,” the song “Morning in Paia” began life as the harmonic laden intro/outro figure and grew into the mellow yet energetic song here. Paia Morning captures some of the mellow yet entrancing vibes of a morning in Paia, Maui: you start out strolling the sidewalks – still sparsely populated this time of day – perhaps pick up some fresh fruit from Mana Foods while catching a little bit of local news at the North Shore outpost, or head up the road a short ways to Island Fresh Café for some breakfast nosh. Next, travel back down the road to grab coffee at Paia Bay Coffee or Anthony’s, maybe taking a meditative stroll along the sand at Paia Bay before wrapping up with lunch at Flatbread Company or Café des Amis. Hope you enjoy.
This song was born of my desire to improvise around some familiar ideas and possibly discover some new ones. Using familiar shapes and runs, perhaps I would come to appreciate them from a new angle, or juxtapose them in a way that I hadn’t before. I wanted to explore textures, try to accent some of the notes in a different way, give the strings a staccato strum or two, play some lush harmonics. Sometimes rather than trying to come up with something totally new, you want to explore the familiar ground of existing templates, maybe change them just a little – not to the point they’re unrecognizable, but to explore how they can be tweaked and see if it suits.
In addition to trying out some musical ideas, I wanted to see how they would sound with a microphone I hadn’t used lately, recording with a different sound. The mic I chose sounds crisp, picking up all the harmonic details and giving clear note separation. It’s quiet, and also good at gathering room ambiance. The bass is not as bold and the mid-scooped rosewood sound isn’t as prominent as another mic I had been using lately, but this mic would provide a nice, hi-fi, detailed sound – one I might now want to explore even more. Anyway, sometimes it’s important to try something a little different with your sound, to record an improvisation and see what happens. 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.