Heading to Maui for two nights at Stella Blues Supper Club this weekend, Hawaiian soul queen Paula Fuga has just released a five-song EP featuring new collaborations with Jack Johnson and Ziggy Marley.
A guest on Johnson's recent album "To The Sea," Paula's been performing with the popular musician on his latest world tour and wanted to provide fans with some new music.
"He's such a great friend, and he encouraged me to produce the EP to have some new material while I'm out on the road with him," she explains.
Paula Fuga performs with Mike Love (from left), Hutch Hutchinson and Sam Ites at Stella Blues.
The hit-packed "Misery's End" EP features a newly recorded version of Paula's memorable song "Country Road" - originally released on a Mana Maoli Hawaiian immersion school benefit album - which has become a popular duet with Johnson on his tours.
"So many people ask about that song, so it was nice to cut another version," Paula continues. "It was featured on Jack's live 'En Concert' album that was put out last year. I love having Jack's voice on it. We play it every night on tour."
Another Johnson collaboration on the recording, the cool reggae groove of "Give Voice," was originally heard on the Culver City Dub Collective's album, "Dos."
"I had the privilege of opening for Jack on his last 'Sleep Through The Static' tour in 2008, and I opened with the Culver City Dub Collective," she notes. "We sing that song nightly, so it made sense to have that track on the EP. And we were able to collaborate with Ziggy Marley on the project, which was truly an honor."
Ziggy and Paula team on a great cover of Bob Marley's "High Tide or Low Tide," from the classic "Catch a Fire" album.
"It's a song about friendship, and the theme of the whole album is friendship and love," she says. "We were in the process of putting the EP together when Ziggy came out for Jack's Kokua Festival in April. Because I'm into reggae and Ziggy was coming down, Jack thought it would be neat for Ziggy to collaborate with me on that track."
Paula had previously recorded with the reggae legend on his Grammy-winning "Family Time," singing the song "Cry, Cry, Cry" with Johnson.
"That was all because of Jack again," she reports. "Jack thought of me because I'm into reggae, and Ziggy is like reggae royalty. When Ziggy came to Hawaii last year, he invited me to the shows and we sang the song at two children's shows in Makena and Honolulu."
The other two tunes on the collection (available as a download on iTunes and Amazon for $5), are two new compositions, "Misery's End" and "Parachute," that highlight her soulful vocal gift. "Parachute" with its upbeat, sunny feel sounds perfect for island radio.
"My guitarist, Mike Love, wrote it for my voice and what could be true for me growing up in Hawaii," she says. "I just loved it and could really feel the words. It's such a beautiful song. We actually recorded 10 tracks and had to narrow it down to five for the EP. I think we made a good choice."
Backed by Mike Love on guitar and Sam Gonsalves on percussion, the EP was recorded at Jack Johnson's studios in L.A. and on Oahu.
Paula feels truly blessed to have one of contemporary music's most popular artists as a friend and collaborator.
"My life is a miracle," she emphasizes. "I was homeless on the beach by the time I was 5 years old. I lived in a car, in all kinds of weird, crazy situations. But I truly believed that good things would happen to me if I just kept being a good person. Drugs were all around when I was a kid, and I could have taken the wrong path. I look at my life kind of like Cinderella's life. I know how miraculous it is for me to be where I am. And this is just the beginning for me; I'm just getting started. And I'm so grateful that Jack likes having me around and sees something in me that's good. I feel so lucky."
For her return dates at Stella Blues, Paula will be again accompanied by Love and Sam Ites on guitar and percussion, and bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson, who has played with a host of artists from Bonnie Raitt to B.B. King, and Ringo Starr to Elton John.
"Paula's truly amazing and she and Mike (Love) have something really special," Hutch enthuses. "We had the most fantastic gig at Stella's some weeks back. Everyone was knocked out. It was as good as anything I've done with anyone."
* Paula Fuga plays Stella Blues Supper Club on Friday and Saturday. Four-course dinner and show costs $60, show only $30. Dinner seating at 6, show at 7:30. Call 874-3779 for reservations.
Last week's column on music and the brain unfortunately included the wrong dates of talks by Dr. Arthur Harvey at the Four Seasons Resort Maui. He will actually present a talk from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday on Music's Adaptive Techniques in combating autism, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease and aging. Tickets are $45, and will benefit Autism Bridges Maui organization. An included reception with be held from 4 to 5 p.m.
He will also present three one-hour talks on "Music for Your Health" at 10 a.m. today (on pain management), Friday (on insomnia), and Sunday (on heart disease). Individual talks cost $25 for nonguests. For more info, call 874-8000.
A dynamic ensemble of young musicians from Malaysia, the Hands Percussion Team, performs at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sept. 23. Along with Chinese drumming, the group's music also includes Indian tabla and Javanese gamelan.
"Our core playing tradition is Chinese, but our music also includes all the cultures that have nurtured us," says Hands' artistic director Bernard Goh. "That's what makes us unique."
A Time Out Kuala Lumpar review praised: "Their lithe, powerful bodies beat the drums in perfect synchrony, occasionally weaving around and over the drums in time with the beats. Clad in vibrant red, their expressions add to the rhythm of the drums, telling tales steeped in passion and culture."
The Team was founded in 1997, based on its founders' desire to bring new creativity to Chinese-Malaysian drumming traditions. "We want our performances to truly represent Malaysia, both visually and musically," says Goh. "Drums transcend language barriers; drums are the heartbeat of music and nations."
* Tickets are $12, $25 and $32 plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
Fresh from accompanying Maui's Anuhea on tour, The Green Band plays at the MACC's Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Band members Caleb Keolanui, Ikaika Antone, JP Kennedy and Zion Thompson have had a busy year backing Anuhea, performing at the annual Kokua Festival, on the Hoku Awards show, and most recently on the Surf Roots Tour 2010, playing shows around the West Coast and as far afield as Boise, Idaho.
Their debut CD, "The Green," reached No. 3 on Billboard's World Reggae Chart.
The concert includes a dance floor. Tickets are $20 and $25 in advance, $25 and $30 day of show, available as above.
Getting in the election spirit, Akaku TV presents a free block party from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday at 333 Dairy Road. Lots of local entertainers will contribute to the festivities, including Eric Gilliom & Friends, the Steve Grimes Band, Up Country Line Dancers, Classic Knights, Teri Garrison, Vince Esquire Trio, Josh Kahula & Friends, Papa Kili Mawae & Pekelo, C.T. Ryder & The Green Band, Dr. Nat & Rio Ritmo Band, Fusion Sol with Sunny Gorg and Harley Brown Band.
On the horizon - lots of new albums by leading artists, including part-time Maui resident Carlos Santana releasing "Guitar Heaven: Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time" on Sept. 21. Tracks include a burning Led Zep's "Whole Lotta Love (with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell), Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (with India.Arie & Yo-Yo Ma), Hendrix's "Little Wing" (with Joe Cocker), and an impressive homage to Jeff Beck on "I Ain't Superstitious."
"Clapton," as in Eric, out Sept. 28, features the guitar master teaming with Steve Winwood, Sheryl Crow, Derek Trucks and JJ Cale on covers from early Bluesbreakers-style blues to Irving Berlin.
Neil Young's latest "Le Noise," featuring just his voice and guitars with production by Daniel Lanois, is being released Sept. 28 and has already been hailed as a new classic by the Los Angeles Times.
Young plays on the upcoming collaboration between Elton John and Leon Russell, "The Union," out on Oct. 19. Lyricist Bernie Taupin reports it's unlike anything we've heard from either artist before.
Phil Collins faithfully taps the past with some Motown and soul classic on "Going Back," out Sept. 28. With help from the legendary Funk Brothers session players, Collins takes on hits like "Heatwave" and "Going to a Go-Go."
New super group "Black Country Communion," featuring drummer Jason Bonham, Deep Purple's Glenn Hughes, guitarist Joe Bonamassa and Derek Sherinian, hits on Monday.
And fans of Leonard Cohen, who plays Honolulu in December, can enjoy the just-released live "Songs From The Road," recorded around the world.
Finally, for those tired of the same old, the debut album "Man Alive" (import only) from the U.K. band Everything Everything could be the ticket. If prog rockers Yes or new-wave pioneers XTC formed today they might sound a little like this astonishingly inventive Manchester-based quartet. The BBC hailed their "quirky brilliance," and a rave review in the usually jaundiced NME concluded, "Bow at the feet of pop's new Picassos." So far they rival Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" for one of the most exciting album of the year. Check 'em out at www.everything-everything.co.uk