Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #190

Aloha, and welcome to the 190th edition of The Run-Off Groove. With luck you will know who I am, but if not, there will be a Bookopedia. Until then, 190 is here.

Image Hosted by Before I start, I would like to say that The Run-Off Groove, in conjunction with Shanachie Records, is giving away a CD. In this case, you have a chance to win a copy of Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police, featuring new interpretations of classic Police songs by Horace Andy, Inner Circle, Junior Reid, Toots & The Maytals, The Wailing Souls, and even Joan Osborne. My review of the CD can be found elsewhere in this column. To win, click to the following link, and good luck:

  • ...and now, we begin.

    Image Hosted by I originally wrote a long ass essay, about three paragraphs worth, about me. Yeah I know, it's always an ego fest, but I realized that I have all the time in the world for things to be about me. Instead, I'm reducing the essay to a sentence or two to say this. As a Hawaiian, I have been looking for hip-hop music that would make it possible for me to say "I'm proud of this". There have been many instances of this in the past, and I have not hesitated to say it. I want it because it's all about home, and I can say that I represent the people, the places, the music, all of it. Then came this album, and it has been the album from Hawai'i I have been awaiting. It's very much "a local t'ing", but it also represents what rap music has become, or perhaps has always been about. These are the kind of guys I probably would have hung out with during high school, but they represent today's generation, and while that does set me apart as the old man, what I hear is a group who creates music that is much more than just their locale. It's hip-hop that touches on that feeling that millions of people around the world can appreciate. Those fans will be able to appreciate what makes home "home", but this group also understands what rap music is all about. This is the Hawaiian equivalent of some of the best hip-hop albums in its history, and it does so by looking beyond its boundaries without being eccentric or weird. The proof of the pepper can be found in their name: Hunger Pains. The name of the album represents them and much of what Hawaiian hip-hop is all about: Dirty Aloha (Siq).

    Readers might thing I'm being bias, and rightfully so. But this is what I hear. What I hear is an accumulation of influences and styles, fine tuned to create something that is uniquely their own. Seph I, Risup are the MC's behind this crew, with Risup and Big Steve handling the bulk of the beats, and from the beginning ("No Bluffs") they show that they have the skills and intellect to bring to the mic, at a time when it might be easy to just deliver a barrage of crap and deposit it at the bank the next day. Seph and Risup are not like that, instead what you hear is only the music from a Hawaiian perspective, but the outlook of the world from being in Hawai'i, meaning that when it comes to struggling and looking for better, it's the same wherever you go.

    What I like the most about the album is the interaction between their lyrics and the instrumentals, it doesn't sound like they dialed it in, downloaded a track, and decided to rhyme Old McDonald over it. They both talk about how other people's "pen game" is just lazy, and they prove this by talking about the dark alleys where you don't want to be after 3am, where local people will pick a fight in an instant, where tourists know to find their high, and that it's the same shit in a different place surrounded by the sea/Only difference is that police are waving hi to me. When you hear Risup rhyme, he's telling his story but with the sampled vocal harmonies you are also hearing the stories of his uncles, his dad, perhaps his grandfather, going through the same issues and motions, carrying on with that love of something, anything on a higher level. "Make A List", with beats and samples that are a cross between Art Of Noise and Mountain, has them speaking about ones credentials in order to take care of business. It isn't a secret that crystal meth/batu has caused a lot of damage in the 50th state, and they get into this with, "Rock Ice", where Risup, Seph I, and special guest Creed Chameleon talk about what people do for the sake of getting that high, from the outside and inside. Risup has a verse where he talks about how things are packaged and what the money will go towards, how things begin at public school and despite how smart people think they are, they somehow end up at A'ala Park. The reference will go over the head for most, but in Honolulu, A'ala Park was once a skateboard park made in downtown Honolulu in the late 70's when people like Tony Alva inspired local boys to grow their hair and go over the lip. When the skateboarding trend ended, the park was all but abandoned, and like a lot of local parks became the place where bums and drug addicts would hang out as they looked at Chinatown's entrance. When crack hit Honolulu, A'ala Park would become an unfortunate crack heaven. In time, batu became the killer and all of the batu heads would eventually make the park the place to live/die and simply gather. What was meant as recreation has become an eyesore. In the last few years, it was also one of Dog The Bounty Hunter's hot spots, and if they were ever looking for people downtown, they always found their way within the vicinity of the park. Hunger Pains cover this in a way that sounds like they've been personally affected by the drug game, and not for the better, and what they say in "Rock Ice" and a few other songs is that there is something better, and with a bit of strength and determination they can make it out, even though that void seems to be getting deeper by the second.

    The downtempo vibe, complete with eerie, cathedral-like vocals with a hint of dub, is in full effect in "Kings Come Home", teaming them up again with Creed Chameleon and Jonah The Whale. In Honolulu, these guys were all a part of Direct Descendants, who were in many ways the Hawaiian equivalent of some of the best collectives in hip-hop, be it Freestyle Fellowship, Quannum, or Hieroglyphics. Hearing this song sounds a bit like when you hear one of those Dungeon Family posse tracks, where everyone is at the top of their game, the competition is fierce, and yet they're doing this for the love of hip-hop. Each line only keeps getting better, and as a whole you can't believe you're listening to something this great.

    The flows are sick, the rhymes are tight, and these guys have definitely checked their egos at the door. There's something about them which demands concentrated listening, and while them coming from my homeland does have a small part in me saying this, it's something else. It's the fact that these guys are doing something this good, something that is very on the edge to where it sounds like a carbuncle about to make its stench known, and that this is the kind of hip-hop a lot of people should be hearing at this very moment. It's intense, powerful, moving, and inspiring, and it happens to come equipped with faces that some may not be used to. This is only a minor flaw to the mentality of some. What Hunger Pains are is the hunger fans have had for far too long, and as Raekwon once said 15 years ago, they're simply making the kind of music they have been wanting to hear. Without waiting around for the next best thing, they are making music to fill the void, and in the process have made a place in independent/underground hip-hop that should bring them to a wider and bigger audience. No one wants to struggle in this life, but when one does, one tends to express themselves best through music. Dirty Aloha is the spirit of something that still lives through the muck and mud, and the brightness of the light, and in time that light will be diverted into creating an energy that will no doubt grow in the coming years.

    (Dirty Aloha is available directly from Siq Records.)

    Image Hosted by I first heard of Obsidian Blue with a CD he did a few years ago called Freon, and I really liked what I heard then. His music spoke to me as a fellow artist/producer, and I wanted to keep an ear out for what he would do next. He has done a few productions and released another CD, but he told me has a new one for 2008 and wanted to know if I wanted to hear it. Of course I wanted to hear it, so I awaited the CD. It arrived with a simple black cover with blue lettering, nothing more, nothing less. It's called Sound Design (self released), which is clever yet simple. What would the music be like is what I asked myself. It had been awhile since I had taken a serious listen to his work, but when I popped the CD in, I was immediately floored.

    Sound Design is just that, but of course just what? This is what rap music should be sounding like right now, artists from across the world should be coming to this guy and asking to work with him, and I'll tell you why. Every single song on this CD sounds complete, it's ready to go, ready made for anyone, and yet as I listened to it, the songs are perfect as is on their own, and amongst one another. This is electronic soul music, some people may use other names and slogans to say they do the same thing but they're not Obsiidian Blue. There is a sense of soul and power in his music, incredible melody and harmonies, especially the vocal samples that ring through, it sounds like a lot of thought was put into this even though I'm told that the album was not originally recorded as a cohesive album. Instead, it's a collection of projects he has done over the years. Yet I listen to this and I'm truly in awe. No, Obsidian Blue is not my relative, I've never met the guy, never talked to him, nor is he my alter ego. But I truly give praise to him and this music because it's done so well, and I'm moved by music that is truly this good. I rank him up there with the Pete Rock's, the 9th Wonder's, the Timbaland's, and then I'm going to say that in a few years, producers are going to be claiming that they want to get on that Obsidian Blue vibe.

    But what is the vibe? A combination of hip-hop with the class of soul and the grit of funk, merging musical generations in an effortless manner. It doesn't sound just like hip-hop, it sounds worldly, something much bigger than hip-hop and yet it is just that. This is not a mere beat tape/CD, but it can be one of two things. This is a soul-inflluenced hip-hop album, or a hip-hop influenced instrumental soul album. Herbie Hancock may be calling Obsidian one day and saying "hey, I heard this track and I have to play some piano on it. Can I fly you here?" I'm not joking. Take this album to heart, this should be one of many blueprints that the architects of tomorrow will be analyzing today.

    (Sound Design is available as a free download from Obsidian Blue's MySpace page and through iTunes.)

    Image Hosted by Canadian beat box master Poizunus is someone who wants to show people that there are more people out there than Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Rahzel, and Justin Timberlake who can make music with their mouths. Of course, some will argue and say that beatboxing is not a true art, and that it borders on outright parody. Those who say that probably have no rhythm, but on Active Dreaming Disorder, Poizunus shows that he not only has rhythm, but skills and knowledge about the music he calls his own.

    On this 12-song EP (it's just under 23 minutes), he shows off some of his skills, whether it's making beats, simulating a DJ flipping and slowing down records, to speaking about one of the semi-lost art forms in this music. It works, and he works it, and by keeping things at EP length he is able to excite and delight without growing stale. Too much spit in the air is not a good thing, so perhaps this is his plan, to spit out EP sized chunks and let people know what he's about. But is he worth a full length album? I think he is, because Poizunus is more than just the guy who makes beats with his mouth. He can do it live, but he also gets involved in the recording process by doing multi-layered stuff and songs with other rappers and singers. It will be interesting to see if others hold true to his music and mission, but I think he has a lot going for him.

    (Active Dreaming Disorder is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Hot In Pursuit: the name sounds simple enough, but the cover photo consists of the two guys in the group with their heads attached to the bodies of Mario and Luigi, those video game plummer dudes. They are seen smiling in a video game world, a throwback to what made life entertaining way back when. But one listen to their self-titled album shows that while they are proud of their upbringing, they are not a joke but do not mind including a small sliver of humor into their music.

    As they indicate on the opening track "High 5ive":

    I don't know, I'm just here to have a good time
    Hands up like you're catching a good vibe
    Two brothers, and I might do it all night
    If you're feelin' good, give me a high five

    It sounds innocent and a few might say corny, but it's genuine and really good as they talk about honor, friendship, trust, and doing this for a good cause. In their case, doing "this" means not only hip-hop but also spreading the good word. When I say good word, I of course mean that they want to share their good word, good vibes, and positive messages, but this isn't something that is Jesus this or Christ that, because I would probably tune them out if it was like that. What I do hear are two guys who like any of us live under the pressures of the world, and the only hope is to steer through in one piece from start to finish, as best as possible. In a track like "Raise The Bar" they are talking about raising the level of excellence not only in hip-hop, but in life as well. JG and Middle are great together, they each have different flows and styles but they somehow compliment each other by drawing on each other's strengths and weaknesses, and in truth there's not much that's weak about them. You want to hear these two guys rhyme because it comes off as "you got my back, I got yours". The good vibe isn't an ego fest, there's a good sense of unity that comes from wanting to create decent, positive hip-hop. Favorite tracks include "Prisoner Of Your Imagination", "Reaching The Point", ""Raise The Bar", "High 5ive", and "Fly Away", although the entire album is a solid piece of work, and with a small group of rappers (Braille, ILLmaculate, The Kid Espi, and Rasco) and producers (Mo Poundz, Observ, and Terminill among others) helping them out, this music is sure to get out to a wider and broader audience. The silliness of the cover is nothing more than a way to bring you in, and once you're in, you'll find out immediately what they're about: a great group with a good vibe who want to rock the party and the world in their own way. They're off to a fantastic start.

    (The debut from Hot In Pursuit is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by It seems Metallica's "The Unforgiven" is becoming the hot underground sample as of late, for it made its way onto the Hot In Pursuit album. But a few weeks before that, I heard it on the new Joe Budden in a track called "Un4Given". The album in question is called Mood Muzik 3: The Album (Amalgam Digital), and anyone who has wondered where he's been will definitely find out what he's been up to. The guy is not taking no for an answer, and he commits himself to writing some powerful rhymes in the way Budden fans have come to know and love. When fans hear tracks like "Warfare" (which features Joell Ortiz, ""Star Inside Of Me", "Roll Call" and "4 Walls", this is someone who should be this generation's biggest and most influential MC, someone who should have Kanye West status at this point in his career. He doesn't, perhaps a crime in itself, but these songs show why fans are willing to wait to hear his work.

    For those who do collect his work, some of the tracks here have been released in various forms on a few mix tapes and CD's, but with voice-overs. These are the full tracks as is, and together they are a precursor of what's to come on Joe Budden's forthcoming LP, Padded Room. Those who felt the man has been sleeping will be left with ears and eyes open, A Clockwork Orange style.

    (Mood Muzik 3: The Album will be released on February 26th and can be pre-ordered from CD Universe. The digital version, Mood Muzik 3.5, is available directly from Amalgam Digital.)

    Image Hosted by East Side Magic are a duo from Vancouver, BC consisting of Lithium and Bizoid, two guys who aren't afraid to smack people around verbally. They have that attitude as if they "just don't care", but it's about digging deep, throwing it out, knowing what they say will either impress, offend, shock, or both. They aren't shock rappers but will definitely bring a few "oh shit"'s throughout their album, with such lines as up in your ass like a Catholic priest and fuck her in the butt just to leave on a dirty/Sanchez.... Much of these raw lyrics come from Lithium, but despite the explicitness and almost juvenile approach, there is a method to his madness and you have to hear him out before one things he's nothing but dirty sex rhymes. He pulls pranks, but he pulls them well and that's one of his best points.

    Then you have Bizoid, who is less about the humor (he's subtle in that sense) and more about producing lyrical gems at the drop of a time, and perhaps he knows it, or perhaps he acts like he doesn't know it. Maybe it's a bit of his Vietnamese background that allows him to go for broke and truly rip shit up, as he does on the one solo track he has here, "Back To My Crib". In this track he sounds like he's been listening to either a lot of DJ Quik and CPO or truly understands the groove and soothe of 70's soundtracks. His attitude is just the right amount of cocky, but those in the know will hear it and know it as just being hip-hop, and the guy has what it takes to not only balance his rhymes with Lithium, but to branch out and do his own thing as well. Both of these guys are very different and yet take on similar paths when it comes to reaching a common goal. It's hip-hop, Vancouver style, and no one in the lower 48 will know what hit them if they dare take a listen to what they have to offer. East Side Magic is like having some White Flower balm up in your face until you're drowning in super hot menthol and all you breath is shards of someone elses stuff.

    (The debut from East Side Magic is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by The music by Amateur Prose is really good, and they make some incredible beats and sounds on The Hundred Stair EP (Hundred Stair Recordings). One of the guys in the group, Secret Of Crim, handled the production and I found myself wanting to get more into the music, as there's a lot going on. Of course by me saying this about a rap album, it must mean that the rapping itself must not be as good.

    Well, it's good, but at times it sounds like something I would prefer to hear on Flight Of The Conchords. One of the guys sounds like a dorky, robotic, news anchor, and the cool thing is that he has some of the best lyrics on here, but the most obnoxious voice. It keeps me from perhaps hearing this in the way it should be heard.

    But what is "that way", and what if this is how they want to present themselves? Well to be honest, Amateur Prose do not center around this robot MC, in fact they kind of come off more like a well trimmed Jurassic 5, complete with sing-songy choruses that happen every now and then. While they call themselves Amateur, their prose shows that they know what they're doing. Bustin Fabulous has the higher voice of the three and comes off like the wicked kid with a lot of tricks in his bag, ready for anything that's thrown his way. Then you have kneverknown the halucinagenius, who simply goes by the name of Kneverknown, and is the mid-range MC although far from someone who is middle ground. The third man in the group is Secret Of Crim, whose productions are worthy enough to where I would like to hear a full album of his work. But I believe he is the man with the low rapping voice, and when he drops his rhymes it comes out of left field and somehow manages to balance things fairly well.

    I'm curious how they do this live, I wonder if Crim yells like Onyx or if he maintains in a Chali2na-type manner. In the end I like what I hear, with Bustin Fabulous and Kneverknown being the better of the three, and Crim being a producer to watch.. There's also an oddball thing going on with the low-voiced rapper and I'm almost waiting for the theme to Tongan Ninja to be done at any given moment.

    (The Hundred Stair EP is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by In the opening track to his album, Neighborhood Fame, Ray Ricky Rivera says his music is for the working class, for the hustlers/for the gangsters and for the strugglers/this for the haters and the lovers, just because /when the beat drop, everybody turn it up, and that means Rivera is someone who wants to make a wide variety music for a wide range of listeners, whether it's a nice up-tempo dance track ready made for the clubs, something for a backyard party ("Still Livin'"), or something to listen to while consuming some liquid spirits ("Sunshine").

    The guy definitely carries the trademarks of being a California rapper, where you have him talking about where he comes from and the people and community that made him who he is, but with the polish that perhaps comes from the shine of the Hollywood lights. In other words, it doesn't sound like a rough demo, the guy doesn't need a makeover for his rhymes and style of rhyming is ready to be taken to the masses. He creates songs with incredible hooks, and as a storyteller he is believable. I can see how the ladies will eat him up, while guys may be intimidated by how well Rivera does his thing, because he knows this is his thing. In a track like "Mami", where he tries to start up the engine Meters style, one can hear how he is on the fine line between someone who has the rawness of Soup or Slim Kid Tre but has the capabilities of being as accessible as Acknowledging his self-proclaimed Neighborhood Fame will have his home crowd reaching out to him, but they better hang on tight because it seems Rivera wants to be able to visit each and every neighborhood across the nation, for fine food, fine ladies, and the many other finer things in life.

    (Neighborhood Fame is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Before the internet became a place for music discussion, one had to find out about out-of-the-way record stores by reading fanzines and the occasional article in Spin, or to go through countless interviews and hope to find references to an artist's favorite hideout. One place that was often mentioned was Wax Trax Records in Denver, and co-owner Duane Davis decided to form an in-store label called Local Anesthetic. The Colorado punk and alternative scenes has been adventurous for many years, but it was Local Anesthetic that was one of the first to give a few bands their first break, and move others across the state to start their own labels. The Local Anesthetic is a compilation that looks back at those days of yesteryear when it felt like a 7" single could save the world. In typical punk rock style, this CD is filled with 33 songs, a little over 78 minutes of music with the kind of raw appeal that you really had to look for in order to find. Once found, you would enjoy it for a long time.

    Some of these bands are considered Colorado legends, including Your Funeral, Young Weasels, and the almighty Frantix, whose songs have been covered by a number of bands over the years, including such classics as "My Dad's A Fucking Alcoholic", ""Sharin' Sharon", and "My Dad's Dead". There are also essential tracks by White Trash (who sound like they may have been an influence on Tri-Cities' own Diddly Squat), Bum Kon, Rok Tots, Defex, Nails, Jeri Rossi, and a single by Gluons featuring Allen Ginsberg.

    This is the kind of music one would be able to find in MaximumRockNRoll at any given time, if you were lucky. Many of their records became nothing but local favorites, and not surprisingly, the music still holds up, a testament to what they were trying to do, even if the bands didn't know if they could finish one song all the way through.

    (The Local Anesthetic is available from CD Universe, and directly from Smooch Records.)

    Image Hosted by The Police are about to take on one last jaunt on tour before officially calling it a day. But between the years of 1979-1984, one could not turn on the radio without hearing their music, whether it was their "white reggae" or their trips into the worldly unknown. Over the years there have been a small number of albums honoring the music of the band, with the Reggatta Mondatta series being the popular of the bunch. The series featured a number of reggae artists both old and new taking the music "home" so to speak, so fans would be able to hear the material if the songs were born and raised in Jamaica or from various Jamaican communities around the world.

    Shanachie Records goes for the reggae treatment again by releasing Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police and for the most part the covers here work, featuring a few artists that one might not normally expect on a reggae compilation. Intrigued? Read on.

    One of my favorite singers opens up the album with a cover of the great "Synchronicity I". It is covered by Junior Reid, who was known in the early 90's for the song "Stop This Crazy Thing" with Coldcut. His voice sounds as powerful as ever but with one exception: his vocal track is run through a pitch corrector, so he ends up sounding a bit like T-Pain, which in my opinion is completely unnecessary. Reid's treatment of The Police song is to take it as a 4/4 song instead of 6/4, although it works in this context. "One World (Not Three)" didn't have to travel too far for a conversion, especially not in the hands of The Wailing Souls, since the song is ready-made for ska. Toots & The Maytals change the lyrics to "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" slightly (the references to "rape" are removed and replaced), but it's great to hear Toots do his thing in a romantic stylee. Before he left UB40, Ali Campbell was able to do my all time favorite Police song, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", and with luck he will include this in his sets as a solo artists.

    There are a number of highlights here, and a few surprises. Highlights include Horace Andy and his great cover of "Invisible Sun", and you can't have a good song without a great version. In this case, the "Invisible Dub" is handled by none other than the genius Lee "Scratch" Perry. The funky Cyril Neville turns "Wrapped Around Your Finger" into something much deeper, and as one of my favorite Neville brothers, it's great to hear him do his thing too. The biggest surprise happens to come from Joan Osborne, who has covered a wide range of music over the years even though the mainstream spotlight hasn't been on her. Here she covers "Every Breath You Take" with her elegant voice, and it is interesting to hear her sing these lyrics from a female perspective, since the song is not a love song.

    Spirits In The Material World holds up quite well as a tribute to The Police, and a tribute album as a whole, with credit going to the artists selected to make this a solid effort. Unlike some tribute albums in recent years, this is one that is worthy of repeated listenings.

    (Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Beatles is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by Yoshi Wada is a Japanese avant-garde/experimental artist who has created his own unique works with homemade instruments and improvisational performances and recordings. Lament For The Rise And fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile was originally released in 1982 and was considered by some to be one of his rarest albums, almost impossible to find. The kind folks at Em Records in Japan have reissued it on their Omega Point imprint, making it possible for older fans to rediscover this long lost gem, and for new fans to find out what others have known about for years.

    The original album consisted of nothing but two side-length tracks, and are meant to be heard as one, in one sitting. The first piece is a 31 minute track called "Singing", featuring Wada singing in a meditative manner. I should also say that the entire album was recorded in an empty pool because the acoustics inside created a unique type of reverb that was appealing to Wada. For "Singing", he simply sings to himself and at times because of the reverb that is going on, he is able to sing over himself, creating a multi-layered effect that is very interesting. Even more interesting is the original side 2 piece, the 33 minute "Bagpipe" which is just that, or what really sounds like a bagpipe going through some distortion pedals. Within the continuous drone are layers of other sounds, including Wada's own voice, and if listened to in the right frame of mind, it can be meditative, mindblowing, or it will create a scratch that you can't get rid of. It's quite unique, and one that would be interesting to listen to through repeated listenings.

    (The reissue of Lament For The Rise And fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile can be ordered from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by Japan's Em Records have returned with a new album in their Steel Pan Series with the release of Reggae Is Here Once Again by Steel An' Skin. The original was a four song, 15 minute, 12" 45 released in 1979, with the title track having a mild disco beat while they talk about the power of reggae via Trinidad, via London. These guys were incredible in what they did, and while this single may have been overlooked by some, this style of music has been highly sought after by collectors in the last few years. The CD features two extra tracks from the album Steel An' Skin recorded, Acid Rain, and a previously unreleased track, the short but brief "John Belly Mama", showing how great these guys were. Cratediggers may recognize some of the names on this album as being those who played with the infamous 20th Century Steel Band.

    Even if you have the original single and album, you'll want this reissue for the DVD that comes with it, featuring a great documentary about the group, as directed by Steve Shaw. It covers their history from their rough times in Liverpool to playing at some of the more elite country clubs of the United Kingdom. Highly recommended for any party and music historian.

    (Reggae Is Here Once Again can be pre-ordered through CD Universe.)


    Image Hosted by The idea is simple enough: create lullaby instrumentals, Hawaiian style. Yeah, perhaps not the most original idea in the world, but one that works fairly well in the hands of Friends Of Aloha, who offer up the 16-track Hawaiian Style Lullabies (Ono).

    The credits are very minimal, stating that the music was played by Friends Of Aloha, but doesn't list who they are, or who (s)he may be, since it could be someone making music straight out of the box. The ki ho'alu (slack key) and steel guitars are played by and credited to one Kalani but Kalani who? Maybe the target audience for this music don't care, but give credit where credit is due. I had not heard of Friends Of Aloha before this, but apparently their music is quite popular in Japan.

    So how is the music? To be honest, it's nice and pleasant, and while that may not sound convincing enough, consider this. The songs are a mixture of traditional Hawaiian music, popular lullabies, and a few classical songs, mixed in with field recordings of the ocean, rain, or trees. It does sound new age, but the music is not about complex guitar work or complex arrangements, but rather to create a soothing and relaxing mood. If you know the Hawaiian songs ("E "Ala, "Pupuhinuhinu", "E Mama E", "and "Kahuli Aku" among others), I think listeners will find the arrangements to be faithful to the songs themselves.

    Are they effective lullabies? While I did not listen to them as I was about to doze off, the playing is perfect for something if you wish to fall asleep to the sounds of something peaceful and tranquil.

    (Hawaiian Style Lullabies is available from


  • iCON The Mic King has put together a mix featuring highlights of some of the tracks he has done over the years. You can take a listen by going here, or download it directly by right clicking this link.

  • Fred Knuxx has a new track out now called "Freedom Part 2", featuring Crooked I. It is being made available as a free download, which you can have by clicking here.

  • That's it for The Run-Off Groove #190. I did promise some other reviews but this column is late as it is so I will hold it off until the next one. There will be reviews for new music by The Eric Byrd Trio + 4, Tom Dempsey & Tim Ferguson, Tangria Jazz Group, Bing Ji Ling, Nancy Priddy, Roommate, Vince Seneri, Lolita Sweet, and many more, so come back next week.

  • If you have music you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page.

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