"Encounters of a Hawaiian Heart"
Island Style Entertainment
Encounters of A Hawaiian Heart
Merv Oana has been serenading visitors and residents since the late 1970s at many of Maui's restaurants and resorts. A former member of the Iao Stream Band, Oana casts a wide net on his latest solo CD. He covers some Hawaiian classics, judiciously adapting some contemporary favorites, as well as debuting some impressive originals.
Among the new compositions, the breezy, tropical lilt of "Clear Blue Waters" captures our islands' allure; the infectious, rocking-blues, "Sweet Opihi" updates kaona for our times; while the humorous, "My Island Cruza," celebrates our old clunkers.
A gifted interpreter of Hawaiian standards, he shines on "He Aloha Kuuipo" and "Kawohikuukapulani;" and he transforms Lena Machado's "Kauoha Mai" into a swinging, big-band track with some tasty jazz guitar playing by SLAMS' Allan Villaren and a hot sax solo by Paul Banuan.
Highlighted by Oana's honeyed vocalizing and some sweet sax, his version of the island favorite, "Lover of Mine," is a standout. Previously sung by Malani Bilyeu and Iz, he creatively blends it with John Lennon's "Imagine." While the sensual "Ahi Wela" (also sang by Iz) is imaginatively fused with Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky."
Also of note - the reggae-lite groove of "My Angel Baby" seems destined for local radio, and who could resist his twist on Harry Belafonte's "Jamaica Farewell," into "Lahaina Farewell."
You can catch Merv at Tommy Bahama and the Monkeypod Kitchen (in the duo Kilohana with Duane Feig) in Wailea, and Leilani's on the Beach in Kaanapali.
Winning Na Hoku Awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Most Promising Artist of the Year in 2010, Anuhea scored with one of the most impressive debut recordings released by a contemporary artist in Hawaii.
That radio-friendly collection of catchy songs found appeal far beyond our islands. Now the Makawao-born artist triumphs again with another primarily original work that is founded on her gift for crafting a polished, sunny sound that's at times funky, folky and reggae flavored.
Right from the gate, Anuhea's seductive, "Looking for Love," captivates the listener with its soulful vocals, endearing entreaties and minimal instrumental backing of acoustic guitar, bass and percussion.
Then we're immediately hooked again with "Higher Than the Clouds'" Jawaiian rhythm, sing-along chorus and brief rap. And so it goes - one beguiling track after another.
Part of the album's charm lies with her wisdom in keeping the songs uncluttered by over-production, relying instead on her vocal talent, the direct appeal of the material and deft instrumentation. Thus, buoyed by her ukulele playing, a track like "Simple Love Song" is exactly what it implies.
But it's not all roses. While "Crown Royal" may make you feel like skanking, its lyrics detail a bitter breakup about "a twisted love." On "Sunday," with guest vocals by The Green's JP Kennedy, she cries for unconditional love. And accompanied solely by piano on the closing "What Am I Doing?" she unfurls an aching tale of delusion.
Spotlighting an evolving artist, "For Love" should easily capture a Hoku or two next year. Anuhea will include songs from the new album in her shows at Stellas Blues on June 1 and 2, with two performances per night.
"It Sometimes Rains in Paradise"
Five Corners Music
Maui's reggae ambassador, Marty Dread, long ago established his cool credentials. How many musicians can boast having both country icon Willie Nelson and reggae legend Toots Hibbert sing with them on an updating of Johnny Cash's "I'm a Worried Man" (on Marty's 'Still Playing Reggae' CD).
In recent years, he's collaborated with an amazing roster of hip artists from Sly and Robbie, Junior Reid and Fiji, to the Mad Professor and Gaudi. And Marty's collaborations with our resident country star include such gems as "Lend a Hand to the Farmers," the anti-war song "Take No Part" and a reggae-ized "Peaceful Solution."
Most recently, he teamed with Inner Circle for a cool remake of Creedence's classic, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain."
Now comes Marty's 16th studio album, "It Sometimes Rains in Paradise," which he kicks off with an infectious reggae take on Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians' hit "What I Am." This punchy, horn-blasted dance track and a closing dub mix were produced by London-based electronica/dub wizard Gaudi, who has previously refashioned songs by Bob Marley and Afrika Bambaataa.
One of the most intriguing compositions, "Search I," details Marty's cross-broader immigration hassles meted out to a dread-locked, dark-skinned musician. "Soon as I say 'we play reggae,' they pull I over to the side," he sighs. "They let everybody pass, but they leave I for last."
With the radiation fallout from Fukushima still ominously looming, Marty's roots dubbed "Nuclear Ting" is definitely timely. Already picked up by progressive radio stations like Berkeley's KPFA, "Ting" reminds us that we're screwed if we don't find non-destructive energy alternatives. "We're living on borrowed time," he warns. "Mother nature is a ticking bomb."
Among guests on the album, Marty teams with Jamaican reggae singer Pluto Shervington on "Sending Flowers;" with Papua New Guinea-born musician O-Shen on the jamming, eco-conscious "Set the Waters Free;" and gets soulful with Jamaica's veteran trio, The Mighty Diamonds on "Gave it Up for Love."
Not content to rest on his laurels, Marty's mission keeps on rolling with the just completed anti-GMO anthem, "Say No to Monsanto," a collaboration with Twilight Circus Dub from Amsterdam. (soundcloud.com/marty-dread/say-no-to-monsanto-marty-dread)
Dorothy Betz and Les Adam
After releasing their impressive debut album, "Drive On," Dorothy Betz and Les Adam return with a new recording, which once again captures their gift for crafting eclectic material reflecting a myriad of flavors from blues and jazz, to rock, Hawaiian and gospel.
With Les primarily handling keyboards and Dorothy playing acoustic guitar, these veteran musicians distill their love for Americana roots music into a rich tapestry that reflects their varied history.
Playing together for more than a decade, Dorothy has also performed with Willie Nelson and the Planetary Bandits, the Upcountry String Band, and the Mana'o Radio Orchestra. Also an alumnus of the Bandits, Les has played on Maui with Kris Kristofferson, the Doobie's Pat Simmons, the Grateful Dead's Bill Kreutzman and Los Lonely Boys.
On "All-Weather Friends" they've attracted some exemplary backing, including John Cruz, Bonnie Raitt Band bassist Hutch Hutchinson, saxophonist David Choy, Vince Esquire on ukulele and guitar, bassists Marcus Johnson and Don Lopez, and drummer Paul Marchetti.
Whether offering a prayerful ode to Hana ("Hana Town"), or spinning an old timey tale of backyard country jamming on "Sittin' Round Here All Day," the duo capitalize on their years, injecting a seasoned perspective into many of their songs. Peppered with artful embellishments like Johny Z's extended flute and sax soloing on "Dreamland" and Vince ripping on "Young and Waiting," every track's a gem. The late Levon Helm of The Band would have had fun with "Sittin' Round," and the evocative "Dreamland" could easily grace an Elton John album.
Besides highlighting the duo's skill at capturing so many musical shades from the moody bluesy shuffle of "Flamingo Wing," to the jazz swing of "Shoeshine Charley" and the funky chug of "I Don't Wanna Play," the new album amply demonstrates how we're blessed to have so many exceedingly talented musicians plying their craft on our little island.
Dorothy and Les perform at the Han Hou Cafe in Haiku on Wednesday evenings with Vince Esquire. The duo produce Manao Radio's Upcountry Sunday shows on the first Sunday of every month at Casanova. And Dorothy is a DJ on Manao Radio Tuesday evenings from 8 p.m. to midnight.