Island Mele: Amy’s ‘Granddaughter’ honors family
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
‘My Father’s Granddaughter’
Amy Hanaiali‘i (UA)
In the 17 years since the release of her debut album, “Native Child,” in 1995, Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom has proven herself one of the most versatile island singers of her generation. Recording at various times as Amy Gilliom, Amy, Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom, and in recent years primarily as Amy Hanaiali‘i, she has displayed her command of traditional Hawaiian falsetto, big band jazz and mainstream pop. In a recent theme album for celebrity marine artist Wyland she showed that she is also a credible blues singer.
The breadth of her repertoire during the past decade may surprise those who think of her primarily as a Hawaiian falsetto singer and imagine her paying her dues years ago singing in the rain at neighbor island carnivals or backyard fundraisers. The truth is that she had an MFA degree in musical theater, and extensive formal training, years prior to the release of her first Hawaiian falsetto album, “Hawaiian Tradition,” in 1997. It’s the training and artistic vision she acquired while building that larger resume that results in this album being such a beautiful calling card. Hanaiali‘i can rock and belt and work the ha‘i (break) between her lower and upper vocal registers when singing Hawaiian falsetto, but this album shows how compelling she can be when singing soft and delicate with only one or two acoustic instruments behind her. She is a remarkable interpreter of what is described as “the Great American Songbook” — pop songs written before the advent of the modern Rock Era in 1955. She includes several of those pop standards here.
Hanaiali‘i reveals in the liner notes that the album is about family. It marks the death of her father, Lloyd Gilliom, and celebrates her love for her daughter, Madeline Austin, who is pictured on the cover and elsewhere in the album art. Mother and daughter share writing and performing credits for “Hihimanu,” a gentle lullaby that is a soothing memento of love shared between parent and child. A second song, “Sleep Little Baby,” which Hanaiali‘i sings acappella, also has direct family connections; she writes that it was written as a lullaby for her father by his step-father, Hawaiian musician Sam Koki.
Two Hawaiian songs — performed with a solo piano as primary accompaniment — come from her productive musical partnership with Willie K. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “When You Wish Upon A Star,” pop classics both, are two more examples of how vocal talent can be showcased perfectly with simple yet elegant arrangements.
In responding to the emotions she’s experiencing at this point in her life, Amy Hanaiali’i has created an album that will bring comfort to countless others. She invites you to share these songs with your children as she has shared them with Madeline.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.