15 new tracks guaranteed to give you a relaxed smile and have guitarists clamoring for tab! Aloha Guitar represents Jim Earp's individualistic nod to the lovely style of "Slack Key" which he composed a number of wonderful new compositions as well as arranged some beautiful tunes like "Wonderful Tonight", "Ob-la-Di , Ob-la-Da", "Spanish Harlem", and the classic "Wheels".
Aloha Guitar is the new CD by San Diego acoustic guitarist
Jim Earp and, cutting to the chase, it is a masterpiece of the form.
Earp has been a nationally recognized finger-picking guitarist since the
mid-’90s and has a considerable local reputation on both electric and
wooden instruments; his many albums include Guitar Uncovered from 2007. He is a “do-it-all” performer whose style blends elements
ranging from Chet Atkins to Michael Hedges, and on the new disc in
particular he shows his versatility using Hawai’ian alternate, “slack
key” tunings. It’s the kind of music that the artwork insert lists the
songs by title, then by the six-key tunings of the guitar strings.
“Kahuna” is one of ten originals on the disc, most with Hawai’ian
names and inspirations. Earp uses slack-key tuning on this tune (and
several others) to facilitate his laying down a low, steady bass line
while simultaneously playing short chords on the treble strings and
picked patterns that slide up and down the fretboard, telling the
musical story of each song. He uses the same approach on “Makani ‘Olu
‘Olu,” which means “Pleasant Wind,” beautifully weaving three hypnotic
melodies together. The timbre of his solo guitar is so deep and rich,
his technique so fluid and clean, that the technical wizardry almost
gets taken for granted. Almost.
The first cover is “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and the Beatles standard is
transformed into a toe-tapping harmonic dance. Earp returns to the
islands mode for “Mele Ka Lei Puka,” a highlight showing his ability to
capture a native Hawai’ian vibe, as the song seems soaked in a Pacific
sunset, named for a puka shell necklace and capturing its essence.
Atkins fans will be on familiar ground for “Wheels,” the closest to a
country-picking tune here, but like all the others, played crisply, with
pristine touch. Likewise, a superb cover of “Spanish Harlem” uses its
very loose tuning to get a striking bottom end as Earp’s picking up top
both lays down the familiar chords and tasty lyrical riff. The air gets
filled with notes on “Skyla’s Waltz,” as Earp uses 3/4 time to convey a
baroque feel, and as usual has no trouble keeping several musical balls
in the air at the same time; it’s another highlight. Earp has recorded
devotional music in the past, and here includes “How Great Thou Art,”
the good, old time hymn is given a reverent reading and Earp’s sound on
this tune and a few others here has so much going on, and is so full,
that it brings to mind both harp and harpsichord. He gets a lot out of
six steel strings, a wood box, and no overdubs.
Aloha Guitar is a generous helping of beautifully played
music and a must-have for acoustic guitar lovers, and it is also a
primer for slack-tuning guitar, performed by a master.
Jim Earp, "Aloha Guitar," Solid Air Records 2012
This is a beautiful recording. Jim Earp, who crafts skillfully-woven melodies, shines in this new CD, "Aloha Guitar,"
featuring Hawaiian slack-key guitar tunes. And for those of us who can't afford boutique handmade guitars, Earp
achieves his lovely tone on most songs on a Martin SP000C-16TR – a guitar you can buy off the rack in many stores.
All but four of the 15 songs are written by Earp, demonstrating good ears for this style. If you haven't listened
to slack-key guitar before, this is a nice place to start for mainlanders, and it reminds in technique of
Travis-picking, as the thumb crafts a bass line while the melody is often developed in the treble registers,
with open tunings producing a variety of sonorities. This is music for quiet listening, or misty mornings, or
moonlit nights. The sound surrounds and envelops you, and you can feel the gentle pace of island life. The opening
cut, "Kahuna," is written in honor of slack-key great Cyril Pahinui, doing homage to one of the greats of the
genre. Each tune stands on its own, and is well-played, like "Noe Mauna" or "Makani 'Olu 'Olu" or "Ka Lanalana
Maka Hiamoe" (Hawaiian for The Sleepy Spider!). Earp throws in some slack-key arrangements of a couple pop tunes,
like the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight," as well as "Spanish Harlem." Both
stay true to the conventions of slack-key style as well as the original melody. He concludes the CD with one of the
nicest arrangements of the classic hymn "How Great Thou Art" I have heard. The disc ends with "Alaula," describing
the glow of sunset. A fittingly beautiful end to a fine CD.
Kirk Albrecht Minor 7th.com