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Gary Haleamau / Elmer Lim / Robert Keli'iho'malu Jr. / Nolan Ha'o - Slack Key Tradition

Slack Key Tradition

Gary Haleamau / Elmer Lim /
Robert Keli'iho'malu Jr. / Nolan Ha'o

Cord Interhational - HOCD 83000

Available from Cord International.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

All four of the featured players have been picking and strumming, as the notes tell us, since they were barely taller than the guitars they cherish. That they're modernists is our fortune, for each one brings a blend of several traditions to the table, ending up with tasty compositions very much in what continentals will hear as the Kottke / Fahey / Lang tradition but is nonetheless baselined in slack key, which not only lends itself well to the just mentioned masters but has of late gone far to inform a number of styles. Everything in music, it becomes evident, takes and gives.

Much of this fare would have fit beautifully into Will Ackerman's Windham Hill label, one of the most intelligent blends of chamber, folk, Ameritrad, and New Age ever created, and more than a few sympathies to the label's Alex DeGrassi crop up in several cuts. There's very little speed demoning here, though Kohala Slack Attack approaches it, because everything is dedicated to a laid back and sublimely de-stressed atmosphere. There are a few unusual interrupted melody lines, as in Elmer Lim's Punahoa Special, and unorthodox approaches (Nolan Ha'o's Papakolea), but, in this disc's work, one can begin to understand the Hawaiian mind's unhurried, non-corporate, not-very-frenzied view of the world, and why Euros, when they chanced upon it, found not just the land but the attitudes and arts paradisiacal.

Slack Key Tradition isn't meant to blaze new paths but rather to re-affirm the ongoing validity of a Hawaiian style continuing to grow in its attractions as off-island musics look to leisurely alternatives and soothing sonorities for relief from the pounding of rock and roll and edginess of jazz. Though the anthology features four separate players, their work blends extremely well, coalescing into 17 tracks of sonic tonic for an uptight and overworked 21st century audience.

Track List:

  • Lonowai
  • Likoa's Mele
  • Punahele
  • Wai Ula
  • Makee Ailana
  • Palimakova
  • Punahoa Secial
  • He Aloha No'o Honolulu
  • Popakolea
  • Ki Ho'alu
  • Kohala Slack Attack
  • Maika'i Ka Makani O Kohala
  • Na Pau Lei 'Ilima
  • Ka Hali'a
  • Kaua 'Ila
  • Aloha'ai No'o Maui
  • Maui Chimes

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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