Island Mele: ‘Kawehilani’ and ‘Kailua’
REVIEWS BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Eric Lee (Lee Enterprises)
Hoku Award-winner Eric Lee continues his current odyssey as a solo artist with “Kawehilani,” his second full-length album. Lee’s most recent prior project, a CD-single recording of the Leonard Cohen anthem, “Hallelujah,” presented him as a mainstream pop artist. “Kawehilani” brings him back to his Hawaiian roots; most of the songs are Hawaiian standards, and most of the others are played in the traditional nahenahe (sweet, melodious) style.
Although the most of the songs sound like the work of a trio, modern studio technology allows Lee to multi-track his voice and accompany himself on both 6- and 12-string guitar; Rodney Bejer, a friend from their days as members of the Ka‘ala Boys, completes the studio “trio” playing bass and providing some additional backing vocals. Lee and Bejer kick things off with a zesty uptempo arrangement of “Ka Lama ‘Ae One” and continue with crisp renditions of “Ho‘oheno Keia No Beauty” and “Wahine U‘i.”
Lee and Bejer slow the pace elsewhere. The slower tempo of “No Na Mamo,” written by Carlos Andrade to commemorate the 1992 voyage of the Hokule‘a, gives Lee a welcome opportunity to show that he can do much more than strum chords.
Louis “Moon” Kauakahi adds another voice to “Po Hemolele,” a romantic original Lee wrote for his wife. Casey Olsen gives the romantic sound of steel guitarist to Lee’s remake of Loyal Garner’s ever-popular “Ha‘a Hula.”
The popularity of Hawaiian music in Japan is seen in Lee’s liner notes booklets. One contains the Hawaiian lyrics, English translations and cultural information in English — including the significance of the album’s title. The other provides much of that same information in Japanese.
Don Stewart Soon (Don Stewart Soon)
Don Stewart Soon introduces himself as a recording artist and song writer with this professional quality sampler. It’s quickly evident that he writes in several styles. The title song is an acoustic reggae instrumental. Other selections show his talent as a lyricist and represent other genres — rock (“Bad Boys”), romantic acoustic pop (“The Letter”) and electric jazz (“Lewers Street Talk”).
Soon uses electric keyboards to give a distinct ‘70s feel to two songs. “Why Must It End” is the mea culpa of a cad. Next comes “We Can Make It,” which appears to be the cad’s repentance.
A song titled “Paddlin’ With Bob” reveals Soon’s whimsical side. It’s far better to ask for forgiveness than consent,” Soon proclaims as he sings about sneaking away from waxing his girlfriend’s car to enjoy a day of ocean sports.
Soon adds variety to the presentation by featuring women as guest vocalists on several songs. Carol Gaylor and bassist Marcus Huber get the spotlight on “Closing Time.” The seductive jazz tune is one of the most commercial cuts on the album.
All going well, Soon’s album will advance his career as song writer and perhaps as a recording artist as well.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.