Sweet Honey in the Rock returns to Hawaii, while Sugarland debuts here
If you love the power of the female voice, there's a choice of hearing either the glory of many voices in harmony or the clear sound of one, over the next week.
The veteran five voices of the African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock will wind up their current interisland tour with a concert Sunday at the Leeward Community College Theatre. Then, next Thursday, it's the Hawaii debut of a top mainstream country acts, Sugarland, featuring the assured singing of Jennifer Nettles.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
» 7:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Hawaii-Hilo Performing Arts Center. Tickets $35 and $45, call (808) 974-7310 or online at artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu.
» 8 p.m. Saturday at the Kahilu Theatre in Kamuela. Tickets $40 and $45, call (808) 885-6868 or online at kahilutheater.com.
» 7 p.m. Sunday at the Leeward Community College Theatre. Tickets $25 general and $21 military, seniors and students. Call 455-0385 or online at lcctheatre.hawaii.edu/sweethoney.html.
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 6:30 p.m. May 1
Tickets: $35, $45, $60 and $75
Call: 591-2211 or online at ticketmaster.com
Also: 7:30 p.m. May 3 on the Palace Lawn at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Tickets $45 in advance and $55 at the door; go to kingmichelconcerts.com for more details.
Fans of Keali'i Reichel already know of Sweet Honey's work: His popular rendition of "Wanting Memories" from his hit "Kawaipunahele" album is originally from the group's repertoire and was written by one of its longtime members, Ysaye Maria Barnwell.
(Reichel and the group did a concert together 11 years ago at the Waikiki Aquarium, in a booking obviously inspired by the inclusion of the song on Reichel's album three years earlier.)
Sweet Honey in the Rock return to the islands after a lengthy absence, with its current lineup of Barnwell, co-founders Carol Mailliard and Louise Robinson, sisters Aisha Kahlil and Nitanju Bolade Casel, and deaf-language signer Shirley Childress Saxton.
Memorable when experienced live, the women collectively bring to life songs of the black church, the history of the civil rights movement and clarion expressions of freedom and justice.
Their latest recording, a children's album called "Experience ... 101," was a Grammy nominee last year.
Possibly every known country music fan on Oahu will show up for Sugarland's concert. Originally a trio, there are only two now, and what a pair of performers they are. Winners for two years running of the Country Music Association's Duo of the Year award -- the latest for their striking and unadorned video for the emotion-draining single "Stay" -- singer-songwriters Nettles and Kristian Bush should be following up their 2006 double-platinum album "Enjoy the Ride" with a new single sometime next month, to be followed by an album in the fall.
In the meantime, their fans can continue to enjoy their latest album, which also has garnered other number-one hits like "Want To" and "Settlin'."
(Nettles also received a Grammy award last year for Country Collaboration with Vocals for her duet with Jon Bon Jovi and his band on "Who Says You Can't Go Home.")
And Sugarland also will be one of the featured performers on the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast on CBS May 18, as well as being a multiple nominee, vying for Top Vocal Duo honors and, with the song "Stay," Single Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Video of the Year.
With the song closing in on being one of those classic cheatin'-heart country weepers -- but without the steel guitar, it's just acoustic guitar, some quiet organ chords and Nettles' powerfully plaintive vocal -- the duo hopes to mine that song's honest emotion further on their next album.
"On another level, when that is true and the song rings true, then it's going to be successful," Nettles told Country Weekly late last year. "People want to feel something. Even if it's a sad song, they want to feel validated that they themselves are understood, because someone says or sings what they feel. It is time to stretch, and we all know it. Fans know it. Nobody wants to hear the same thing over and over. People want something different. They're so bored with everything sounding the same."