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Grammys: ‘Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai‘i’ review
By John Berger / firstname.lastname@example.org
“Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i”
Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i (Peterson Productions )
Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom has reinvented herself several times and used several variations of her name since she released her debut album, “Native Child,” in 1995. Her repertoire at various times has included adult contemporary pop, traditionalist Hawaiian falsetto, American pop standards and contemporary hapa haole versions of other artists’ national hits. In the process she has performed as Amy Gilliom, Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, Amy, and most recently as Amy Hanaiali’i. Several of her biggest successes to date came during her productive working relationship with Willie K — the duo’s albums together won back-to-back Hoku Awards in 1999 and 2000, and their 2004 reunion album was a finalist in the Best Hawaiian Music Album category in 2005. With this album she opens a new chapter in her career — for the first time since her reunion album with Willie K she is performing as a member of a duo or group rather than as a solo artist.
Whereas her last album, “Friends & Family of Hawai’i,” was a collection of duets in which a different high-profile celebrity guest joined her on each song this is a group project in the best sense of the word. Amy sings lead on several selections, shares the vocal spotlight on several others, sings backing vocals elsewhere, and is completely absent on several more. Group members Dennis Kamakahi, Elmer “Sonny” Lim Jr., Chino Montero and Cyril Pahinui are also showcased as solo vocalists. They also join Peterson in various instrumental combinations — slack key, steel guitar and ukulele. Lim, Montero and Peterson team up on “Vaqueros” and Peterson closes the project with “Ka Wai O Kaupo.”
In short, this is not a compilation album of recordings made separately by individual artists nor is it another Amy Hanaiali’i album in which all the big name artists are used as her guests. It’s been a while since Hawaii last saw an all-star group of this magnitude but given the billing and the contents there’s no question that this sextet is one such group.
It would be easy but simplistic to appraise the album and the use of the words “slack key masters” in terms of whether the sextet is likely to win a Grammy in 2011. What’s more relevant are the contributions that the sextet is making to Hawaiian music with its work.