Kamakahi's new CD shines


POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009


David Kamakahi
(Trick Bag)

; David Kamakahi has recorded Hawaiian music with his father, slack-key master Dennis Kamakahi, and as a member of a quartet, Na 'Oiwi, with the elder Kamakahi, Mike Kaawa and Jon Yamasato. As a solo artist, however, David has been moving in a different direction. His first solo album, “;Pa'ani,”; won the 2005 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Contemporary Album rather than Hawaiian or Contemporary Hawaiian, and his second solo project again emphasizes mainstream American pop music.

The set list is an eclectic assortment of pop chart “;oldies”; that includes several not usually found in an acoustic rock repertoire. “;Man in the Mirror”; stands out as an imaginative reworking of Michael Jackson's inspirational hit, while “;Boardwalk Angel”; and “;Fields of Gold”; also offer fresh ideas. Several others—“;Nightbird”; and “;Your Smiling Face,”; for instance—are cover-band stuff; OK for lounge work but not far enough removed from the originals to be interesting.

Kamakahi's treatment of Hawaiian standards is a different story. His crisp and spirited rendition of “;'A 'Oia”; reminds us that he is also a talented Hawaiian traditionalist. Kamakahi returns to his Hawaiian roots at the midpoint with “;Ka Ua Loku.”; It, too, is nicely done.

Watch for “;Shine”; to be a finalist at the 2010 Hoku Awards this time next year.


;» “‘A ‘Oia”
;» “Fields Of Gold”
;» “Man In The Mirror”

”;Disc of the Damned”;


; The name of this artist, the album title and the cover art suggest this is grim, hard-core metal rock of the style epitomized in Hawaii by Crucible and younger groups. Wrong on both counts! The first lick of the first song notwithstanding, “;Damned”; is an ambitious musical smorgasbord that draws on ideas from nearly four decades of techno-pop, rock, new wave, alt-rock and other genres. Unlike some projects in which an artist or group self-consciously tries to impress—and more often than not overreaches their actual capabilities—composer/performer/producer Kai Laigo succeeds in fitting everything together.

Hard-rock guitar riffs catch the ear on several songs. A hypnotic drumbeat emerges as the focal point on another. A lengthy passage on electric piano stands out on a third. Played in its entirety, “;Disc”; is excellent driving music—at least for times when it is possible to cruise the freeways at no less than 55.

Laigo also has a knack for lyrics. “;Don't hate me if I'm not a millionaire,”; he croons on one song. On another, “;Next Door,”; he adds local references to a lament about working several jobs he hates—for instance, “;Don't you feel lucky that you live on Oahu?”;

Laigo/Destroyah also does love songs. With those, too, memorable insights await discovery.


;» “Get Your Love Together”
;» “Wonderlust”
;» “Get By”

”;The Anomaly”;

(no label)

; Hawaii-born Sabrina Velasquez checks in from the Pacific Northwest with a six-song CD that sounds ready for national airplay. The title song has a strong reggae-style rhythm—bait, perhaps, for Hawaii's self-styled “;island music”; radio stations—but the others are smooth, modern rock. The arrangements provide accompaniment for her soft and seductive voice. Her delivery emphasizes the wit and poetic flow of her lyrics. Memorable melodic hooks add all-important commercial appeal.

Velasquez mentions Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young among her musical inspirations, but the influence of Taylor Swift is heard when she taunts and dismisses a fool who apparently tried to cheat on her but didn't get what he was after. “;I bet she brought you down to your knees,”; she croons with venomous sweetness. Serves the guy right!

Velasquez completes her sampler with several entrancing love songs. This first extended-play release should be the precursor of a full-length album.



;» “Right Way”
;» “The Anomaly”
;» “Rosalie”