Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #193

Aloha, and welcome to the 193rd edition of The Run-Off Groove. Before I begin, I have to mention the recent passing of two legendary people in the world of Hawaiian music.

  • The first is "Auntie" Genoa Keawe, the premiere lady of all that is Hawaiian music. She died last Tuesday at the age of 89, but leaving behind a legacy of recordings that will never be touched. She was my grandfather's music, the music of my parents, and in turn my music. She was one of the few Hawaiian women to run her own record label, where she was also involved in promotion and distribution. I lived a few blocks from the label's headquarters in Pauoa, and for years I could ride my bike and see the Genoa Keawe Records logo on the door. Her passing is a huge loss, but her impact is still being measured today.

  • The second person is Uncle Raymond Kane, and I can say "uncle" because he was indeed my uncle, as he was married to my father's sister, Auntie Elodia. As a kid, my dad would always make it out to Nanakuli, out in the country, to talk story with his sister Elodia. A visit to the Kane house usually meant my uncle was at home, but as a musician, he was often performing. On those days that he was home, he would always bring out that guitar and just play. It wasn't special, it was just my uncle playing. I knew he made records, but so did half the people on Oahu and the rest of Hawai'i. I knew people called him a legend and great, but it wasn't until I lived on the mainland did I see this appreciation in a different perspective. I did want to learn how to play from him, but I was always (still am) stubborn. I wanted to rock and play drums, but drums were too loud and expensive.

    In the times my uncle was there, my dad would somehow find a way to play or sing along, that's just how we did it. My dad played guitar, 'ukulele, and the Autoharp, and would not hesitate to sing. So did my auntie. If my uncle had friends over, they would jam. Or people would come and jam anyway. My uncle's on my mom's side were/are also musicians, so if there was a need for kanikapila, it was just that. Time to go play music. As a kid though, I liked my music but I also wanted to play with my cousins, skateboard, do anything that had nothing to do with the grown-ups. Yet one could not help but stop when I heard my uncle play, there was a tone that he achieved, and I think I was blown away at the fact that here was that tone, not on a record but right in front of me. I wasn't starstruck of course, but it was just right there to hear, and I was lucky to have that opportunity. I would say "opportunity" because at home he didn't always play. Sometimes he would rest and kick back on his favorite chair, maybe watch a bit of TV (but not a lot, theirs was a strict household so I had to be on my best behavior).

    If there's one thing I remembered the most, it was the way he spoke. He had a pidgin accent, but he also spoke with authority, and almost with a slight southern accent. He would say something like hey John Boy, I see you looking at my sterea. Don't touch the rekkids, those are not yours. If you go into the fridge, you can make yourself some water or orange juice, but wash the cup. It was a very cool voice, and he also had a big hearty laugh too. When he sang, it was in that old Hawaiian style that would give you chicken skin, but I always like the way he spoke. Fortunately, outside of the front yard and dining room jam sessions, I was fortunate to have seen him perform live 15 years ago at the Seattle Folklife Festival, the recording of which was preserved on the Ki Ho'Alu-Seattle Style compilation. He was very serious on stage, and very much about playing and taking care of business, no fooling around. I didn't get a chance to speak with him afterwards, but I did talk with Auntie Elodia, and I told her to tell him that it was a fantastic show. While I know he entertained people around the world and played some incredible guitar, I'll always remember him as being a fun, family man who cared for his wife and his kids very much. I will miss you a lot, Uncle, but your music and style of guitar playing has touched so many people, it is assured that you will not be forgotten. Wa'ahila.

  • Before the column formally begins, there's still time to put in your entry to win a compact disc:

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Run-Off Groove, in conjunction with Shanachie Records, is giving 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. I reviewed the album in Run-Off Groove #190, and I think the album is worthy of many listens. Click the following link and enter right now:

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us He may very well be this generation's Tom Zè, but I think Brazil's Curumin is having too much fun being himself. JapanPopShow is his forthcoming album, his second for Quannum, and it is easily one of the more original albums I've heard this year so far. Here is a guy who combines not only the music of Brazil, but all of the elements that made the music what it is. You will hear shades of Africa, you will hear something that sounds like a cross between Kraftwerk, M.I.A., and Salt-N-Pepa ("Caixa Preta"), or even some downhome funk ("Saido Bangu"). Curumin shares his romantic side in "Misterio Stereo", which could be about a woman in waiting, or falling in love with the sounds coming out of a stereo system, or both. "Compacto" is also about the joys of falling for a "compact record" (a 7" 45rpm record for the vinyl illiterate), as he sings (in Portuguese) 45!, cause I just want to listen/45!, restful/45!, at my place, at my side/45!, one delicate, one rare/45!, so let it drop/45!, cause I want to listen/45!, at my place, at my side/45!, calm, restful.

    While music and the joy of records are one of the appealing things about his music, Curumin also touches on the political side. As is the case with a lot of Brazilian music throughout the country, one has to read between the lines but with lines such as where is my piece of the steak?/the bone is hard to chew/share the dough/share the dough (from "Mal Estar Card"), it couldn't be any more direct. The life of his country is not in a ritzy hotel, but amongst the people.

    Those who have enjoyed Brazilian music of the last 40 years will find Curumin to be the bright light every fan looks forward to finding. It's a music that's proud by an artist who is honored to share his music with the world, but not without acknowledging the people and the land he calls home. It's fun and funky, and it's the kind of music that will move the most rigid asses on Earth. There are also some English lyrics scattered throughout, including a cameo from Lateef The Truth Speaker and Gift Of Gab in "Kyoto", which could help carry Curumin over to hip-hop audiences. The track was mixed by none other than Scott "Scotty Hard" Harding, so you know things are hitting when they're supposed to be. While there are other established guests on JapanPopShow, including RV Walters, and Tommy Guerrero, most of the instruments are played by Curumin himself, someone who is determined to craft his own sound and history in his own way, complete with analog instruments and recording techniques, complete with friendly tape hiss throughout (YES!)

    It's an album with a retro feel but with a feeling that has today's issues in mind. It has the right amount of quirk and strangeness that makes these type of Brazilian albums slow burners. Or at least, you want to let it simmer for maximum satisfaction, so that you don't get audio heartburn or indigestion. For anyone who thought the state of music has been dead for the last few years, JapanPopShow is the album that will bring life to anyone that allows themselves to take it in.

    (JapanPopShow will be released on May 6th.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Colin Stetson is not your ordinary saxophone player. He can play it in a jazz manner, the saxophone is a celebrated instrument in the genre. But you can hear it in classical, rock'n'roll, soul, funk, electronic, and various styles of music from around the world. New History Warfare Vol. 1 (Aagoo) sounds like its title, the album is an audio attack where the saxophone is put into the hands of someone who wants to take it out of its own comfort zone and put it in places unknown.

    While Stetson has been involved in a number of group projects, this is his first solo album. It is a true solo album, he is the only one who plays on it, and the liner notes indicate that all songs were recorded live, no overdubs or loops. This is said because some of these sounds sound "treated" and "altered", because some songs sound as if there were four people in the studio, while others don't quite sound like something that would come out of a saxophone. "And It Fought To Escape", the opening track, sounds like a train slowly speeding up, and it sounds like a non-stop eight minute barrage of loops, bursts, grunts, and blasts. The guy has some mean breath control, and it sounds like he's never going to stop. "Time Is Advancing WIth Fitful Irregularity" sounds like an on-location recording of a ship coming into the dock of a harbor, while "Stand, Walk" appears to be an amplified saxophone that sounds like someone playing an electric bass. Other tracks has him playing with effects, perhaps with guitar pedals or some time of other effect. Miles Davis was known for playing through a microphone that was hooked up to a wah-wah pedal, resulting in sounds that sounded like a keyboard or guitar, but this goes much further than that. He may start out with playing a phrase, and then the drums kick in as he plays over it. Then you realize the drums you're hearing is Stetson. Again, no overdubs or loops, this is stuff that is being played and recorded live. He also does a little beat box excursion, before creating the sound of assassination.

    Stetson alternates between various saxophones and a clarinet, but what he does with it makes the selection of instruments almost a moot issue. I say "almost", because obviously that's the factor that will make people want to hear this, how he has a love of turning the sound coming out of his saxophone into something else. New History Warfare Vol. 1 sounds like music from someone who knows the rules, but does everything in his power to not follow them.

    (New History Warfare Vol. 1 is available directly from Aagoo Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The older I get, the more I undetstand why my dad loved this type of jazz: laid back, soothing, guitar jazz. My dad was a huge fan of Wes Montgomery and George Benson. I became a fan of both of them through my dad's listening habits, but it was just that cool jazz, nothing more. But perhaps with age and maturity you tend to understand that jazz doesn't have to be a clusterfuck of heavy improvisation or minutes of dwiddle-dwiddle-dee. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of all of them but sometimes you need something a bit more mellow to just chillax to. This is what guitarist Jimmy Bruno does on a fantastic album of cool jazz called Maplewood Avenue (Affiliated Artists).

    The recipe is simple: guitar (Bruno), vibraphone (Tony Miceli), and bass (Jeff Pedras). It sounds like music that would be perfect at an outdoor cafe or a Boho coffee shop, but here you get to hear the music in all of its glory. "Easton Street Bossa" could move people to move and groove if it had a beat, but without the drums the song becomes more sensual. Miceli's own "PA Turnpike" has him dazzling listeners with his intro before Bruno comes in and dances along with Pedras' driving bass work. With the exception of a song based on the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, the album features all original material, so they're not relying on new interpretations or copying the songs note for note to be heard. Bruno is also a recording engineer, and what he wanted was to capture an RVG vibe in how it was recorded and how it would end up sounding. It's intimate, it's warm, and you get to hear "the flaws" that make all of those old jazz albums charming. Like Montgomery and Benson before him, I believe he plays without a pick, so there's a certain feel you can detect from someone who uses the human touch on his strumming hand. I like it when he starts a solo and plays it within the time signature, only to move out of it and take a musical detour before returning. It's cool and laid back, but not without any adventure.

    (Maplewood Avenue will be released nationally on June 30th, but first pressings are available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Austin Leeds has been doing a lot on the dance music charts and most people might not be aware of it. His work with Nick Terranova, and remixes with a number of artists has made him a must-have producer and remixer, and he's now answering critics with Dirty Sound II/Love Machine (Made).

    Leeds makes some pretty decent house and electro, and knows how to enhance a certain moment of the song and make it work. The album features a number of tracks under his own name, but it's essentially a non-stop dance mix compilation highlighting his talents. I liked Rooster & Sammy Peralta's "Tonight (Aftertouch Miami Style Remix)" and the transition at around the 7:20 mark. I would have liked it if that transition turned into it's own song, but it remains a segueway towards the next track, the bubbly "Holiday" by Leeds himself.

    The album is as good, if not better, than some of the other club-oriented albums out today, and it's a mix that can be heard outside of the club without worry if the intensity of the music will weaken. This is comparable to some of the great house and techno comes Profile Records released in the early 90's, and as a producer, Leeds could find himself being in demand by today's pop artists. I think he's having too much fun doing what he does now.

    (Dirty Sound II/Love Machine is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us An album full of remixes by an artist is something I like and can tolerate. I do like hearing multiple mixes of the same song by some artists. In this case, a new CD by iiO has 18 mixes of the same song, a few of them being edits and dubs of a particular main mix. Hearing the same set of vocals and lyrics over and over and over is not quite like listening to a dancehall album with 20 songs using the same riddim.

    Rapture Reconstruction: Platinum Edition (Made) is only for the completist and those who cannot get enough of this song, but this is all the CD is: one song mixed up in various ways, and it takes two CD's to hear them all. One disc is the "Reconstruction Disk", and you have four by Starkillers, and... I don't even want to talk about it. The second disc, the "Classic Enhanced Disk", is called this because it features the music video. Audio-wise, you do get remixes from Paul Van Dyk and Armin Van Buuren.

    This is perfect for the DJ who wants to make custom mixes of this song, but it doesn't look too good for iiO if you're not capable of having a remix album with other songs. The song, in its original form, is good for what it is, but not 18 times over. If the song sells and makes money for them, and makes it possible for them to travel around the world, great. It gets boring very fast, and as a Platinum Edition, this is not exactly the way you want people to remember you for.

    (Rapture Reconstruction: Platinum Edition is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us A collaboration between Gunnar Halle, Jeppe Kjellberg, and Steinar Nickelsen has been put together in the form of a great album of improvisational music called Echidna (Ilk), and the first few seconds of the opening, title track might make some believe it is a flashback of sorts to electronic music circa 1973. It sounds old and distant with various analog-sounding synths being heard, but about half way in, it sounds like some free form jazz, courtesy of Halle's trumpet playing. The reverb added to it may remind a few people of Miles Davis's muted trumpet circa In A Silent Way, but because of the synthesizer textures in the background it also makes it fitting for an ECM release.

    The improvisation is of course what makes this appealing, one does not know where the next sound will come from, or how it will sound in relation to the other sounds heard. Nickelsen's organ work throughout the album seems to be subtle, partly because for most of the album it doesn't sound like one. It could be percussion, it could be running towards or away from another sound, but its presence is always there. Same can be said for guitarist Kjellberg.

    Anyone who enjoys the music and work of Egberto Gismonti or Eberhard Weber will find this to be an incredible piece of music, where one could find peace and tranquility within the harmony of the musicians involved, or just be thrilled by what's going on (or what will be going on) at any given time. One can't tell if this is modern music, or something more primal, or perhaps what we assume as being new technology is really something that has existed in some form throughout time. This will probably sound as innovative in 40 years as it does today.

    (Echidna is available directly from Ilk Music.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us "a slopbucket of shoehaze tremolo", what the hell does that mean? regardless of what it means, i mention this in reference to a trio called a faulty chromosome and their music, well, it's far from being faulty. it has flaws, but those little mistakes and quirks is what makes as an ex-anorexic's six sicks exit,... (self-released) work. it helps to begin the album with a nice 'ukulele solo, but then you hear a pulsating beat with ambient vocals with chimes and distorted, out-of-tune guitars. it reminds me a bit of sebadoh, sonic youth, or some local band at the vfw next to the abandoned supermarket that had huge shopping carts. they sing songs about feeling stuck, fears of tomorrow, and to be honest, sometimes i can't tell what the hell they're singing but it sounds good.

    imagine if you had some dinosaur jr. or a replacements bootleg, and you wanted to run it through your older brother's amps so that it would sound more fucked up. this is the sound of a faulty chromosome, where nothing sounds right but you're compelled to sit and listen to the whole thing. it's a bit geeky but somehow after the first listen you smile because you somehow "feel it". you may not understand it 100 percent, but no need to, because it sounds good. you have been touched.

    (as an ex-anorexic's six sicks exit,... is available on their MySpace page.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Brooklyn's The Diggs remind me a lot of the "alternative" rock I listened to in the late 80's and early 90's, when the uncertainty of live was somehow explored and examined through powerful singing and occasional alternate tunings. True to form, they are a power trio, and ctrl-alt-del (Sugarspun) is an album that sounds a bit more authentic than all of the post-alternative copycats that came to being after the death of Kurt Cobain.

    I think what makes these guys so good is that not only does it sound sonically good, but they have songs worth remembering. They sound like a band that enjoys playing together, and that comes through in materiakl like "Vitamins", "Brigante", and "Careen", where the punk subtleties are at play but never turns into organized chaos. "This Emphatically" is their entrance into your mind and heart, and by the end you're willing to share beers and a home cooked meal with them. In "Careen", a song that talks about thoughts that seldom survice, a few are archived forever, such as it's not fun at all it's not fun at all, it's not fun at all when you're/when you're an idiot with an acoustic, and you're outside on a nice day. Maybe it's a reference to the silly things we do when we're in love, but if you let it sink in, it somehow makes sense. Or in "Carpal Tunnel", when vocalist/guitarist Timothy Lannen singsI'm fucking up at work/I'm never there on time/And I can't get out of bed/I can't get out of bed/Today was strange/I'll tell you all about it when I get home, but you're not going to be there/when I'm inside out/but you're not going to be there, one is moved at the aspect of hearing the concept of home, and then knowing that the scenario discussed hits you too close to home. You enjoy the message, but you're also pleased at hearing it in an untypical manner.

    What also makes sense is their love of power pop with a bit of punk and hard rock, as "Collide/Collapse" demonstrates. It's the kind of song the Foo Fighters would cover because they can feel the power of a clever and crafty song, performed by a band who deserve to be heard by the masses. The sad thing about that is if they were to take it to the masses, would that in return water down their sound? Do they need to take it to the masses in order to be validated? No. ctrl-alt-del is something you don't want to do while listening to this, but you do wish that more people would discover an album that you feel should be one of the best records of the year.

    (ctrl-alt-del is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The last I heard of The OaKs, they had recorded an album called Our Fathers And The Things They Left Behind, which had talked about the innocence of ourselves verses the guilt of a world corrupted by war and greed. Its messages managed to get a lot of coverage in the music press, including an article I had read in Paste magazine asking if it was possible that rock'n'roll could still save the world. It may not, but it can provide the seeds towards a better world.

    The two men that make up The OaKs have decided to take their small project into something bigger, in fact they're now a 6-piece band who are not only stronger, but are a band that could indeed save the world one song at a time. They go at it once more with Songs For Waiting (self-released), and by incorporating extra musicians their sound is even more worldly than it was before, making it more multi-dimensional. "Masood" (free MP3 download) is about a friend who died in the war in Iraq, and it's the kind of story that goes beyond political lines. It's about the death of a human being due to violence, a topic that comes up a number of times on the album, including "War Changes Everything", where the man in the song contemplates the stupid things humans do all for the sake of someone else's sense of security.

    Vocalist/songwriter Ryan Costello always seems to be on alert, perhaps in a culture where nothing ever shuts off, one can't help but take in the information or suffocate by its speed. He takes it in as fast as he can and expresses himself through music, allowing his listeners to let them know they're not alone in the frustrations of the world, the human condition, of trying to keep sane in today's alleged fast-paced lifestyle. The messages are not forced statements, nor are they meant to be pleas. Instead it comes off like a dying man's diary, hoping someone will take those words and try to change the world he lives in. Maybe the dying man is a metaphor for the world we live in, and you don't need this album to know that it can be a bit bleak. What helps incredibly on this new OaKs album is the introduction of a female voice, in this case vocalist Melissa Reyes. She handles the harmony and background vocals, but somehow becomes the angelic voice on an album full of hellish voices. I know, sounds like another journalistic cliche, but if anything that delicate voice does help give the album a bit of optimism to work on, rather than something that sounds like a beat up Bruce Cockburn LP. Now with an expansion, The OaKs may become a must-see band when they take the album and their music on the road.

    (Songs For Waiting is available through the official OaKs MySpace page. The band will have a CD release party on March 7th in Orlando, Florida, and will be playing at this year's SXSW. Click here for more information.

    FREE OaKs MP3's
    The Two Calls
    The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

    You can also take a look at these videos @ YouTube, documenting the making of Songs For Waiting:

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Corleone 10 Years - Everything I Own Is Broken Or Bent is a mind trippy DVD compilation featuring highlights of the record label's roster. As with any good indie label, you can't place a simple name or tag on them and say they are xxxx-rock or whatever. The label covers everything from experimental and avant-garde to twisted folk, eclectic pop and rock, and sometimes will offer their own brand of hip-hop because they can.

    The videos on here range from professionally shot and edited, to concert footage done with one camera. Some of it looks good enough to be broadcast on any cable network that still shows music videos, while some, such as the one for Bonedust, looks as if someone downloaded it from YouTube. Bonedust consusts of two ladies, God and Death, and they create drones with feedback created through a microphone, bass, or guitar. In the clip shown here, the ladies are kneeling on the stage, moving back and forth with each other as they sing, harmonize, and eventually scream. Once they reach a level of consciousness, one of them moves to the drums and plays like a lunatic. The other goes to the bass and starts pulling the strings. They stop, harmonize as if they come from some archaic folk society, only to create more noise. The effect was unexpected, but I like it. I think Bonedust are on hiatus, but this is a view of what was and hopefully what will be in the future. As for the one-camera footage, one has to check out an insane performance from Black Pus. The video only shows the drummer, Brian Chippendale, and it's hard to tell if this drummer/saxophonist is the only member, or if there are others. He plays the drums as if someone is piercing him with dirty needles, he plays at such a hyperactive pace, it seems that the guy is going to fall part into himself and crumble. He stomps on something off-camera (could be effect pedals), and just when one thinks it's over,he plays even faster. He does this while wearing a homemade ski mask of some sort, and it sounds like a terrorist ready to attack, but with more funk and noise. Chippendale also plays drums for Mindflayer, and their performance is a multi-camera ordeal and it looks like they played in some frozen basement as everyone is bundled up ready for hot cocoa. Instead, they get some insane noise where he plays the drums like a nut, while keyboard distortion creates this audio wall that refuses to escape. There's a lady standing there, dancing into it and getting into the sound, and I'm thinking, how come I can't find women like this in my life? Then there's the guy next to her, looking like he just came from work, but smiling as if he can't contain himself. Night Wound's "Less Dead" is a bit more professional looking, and sounds as good as it looks. Lorna Doom's "Doom Is In The Room" proves that DJ's can't run, and that you can rap in your kitchen/living room/loft.

    It looks like a homemade compilation, but it is still of quality. It could be a project made for friends by a friend, where you see the nice videos, the custom-made live clips, and other visual artifacts that don't fit but somehow do, such as the live performance of Fang Island playing to a bunch of very young school children in a classroom. The kids are rocking, and there's one girl upfront who must have a dad who listens to metal, because she bangs her head at the right moments. In the end, it shows off a collective of musicians, friends, and creators who are in it for the noise, the experimentation, the creativity, and just good times for goodness sake, Rhode Island style. Bonus features include a few more videos, a short film or two, and a performance where the saxophonist is eventually attacked by his bandmates in slow motion.

    As a whole, the DVD is put together very well and for those who take on their music in an adventurous manner, this will be the highlight of any collection. Some of the artists here are still around, some of them may have lasted for less than a year, so it's also a document of a time in history for these musicians. It's as unpredictable as the label's own roster, and that makes it something everyone must see.

    (Corleone 10 Years - Everything I Own Is Broken Or Bent is available directly from Corleone Records.)

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  • I am fortunate to have received a sneak preview of a new DVD by DJ Mike Relm, who has been tearing it up in the last few years in a show that combines audio and video to create something that is uniquely his own. Clown Alley is a DVD where there are a few 3-D elements, but not to the point where it overwhelmed (or damages your eyes). Highlights include footage from his live shows, where he cuts up (with a DVD turntable) well known scenes from movies and music videos, and mashes them up beyond the MP3 download, where most people these days hear their mash-ups. If he feels like scratching up Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song", he will and he makes it work. You'll hear new beats over well known acapellas, you'll see the Office Space routine, he takes those ideas and turns them into some pretty trippy stuff.

    There are portions of the DVD that come off like a personal blog, where you'll see footage of him being chased around the city, or a kung fu display, and unfortunately it is these elements that slow down the program. Again, what I received was a screener so I'm not sure if this is the final version or just highlights of what's to come. He is a filmmaker that likes to experiment with his own home videos, and I like what he's capable of doing but I think if there was more variety to the inbetween skits, people would be willing to sit through it instead of fastforwarding to the next song.

    I enjoyed his mixture of scratching music with visual elements, something I've wanted to do for years and something everyone from DJ Shadow to Cut Chemist and RJD2 has done very well. Mike Relm is one of those guys who understands music and his skills and takes it one step further. If the final version of Clown Alley is edited better, this will be one of the best DJ-related videos of 2008.

    (Clown Alley will be released on April 1st, and will most likely be made available through the Mike Relm home page.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Rebel Souljahz are a Jawaiian band who play some pretty mean reggae and pop ballads, they are able to balance these two styles without being weak on either side. On their debut album Nothing To Hide (GO Aloha) They sing about romancing the ladies, partying, dancing, partying, and in the case of "I'm Not The Man For You", they actually sing about love gone wrong and having to tell the lady they should look for someone else. In other words, "you snooze, you lose, baboose." They are young guys who want to do good, but also know that one has to take time to enjoy life and friends, and they're all about that in uplifting songs like "Countryside Party" and "Steady Root Rockin'". If there is one thing that will become a trademark for them, it is their vocal harmonies. The members of the group trade vocal duties, with the primary focus on two of the guys, and one of them is an exceptional vocalist who definitely was raised on a good share of soul and reggae. But when the harmonies kick in, that's trademark Hawai'i, if not trademark Polynesian vocal harmonies that one can hear in everyone from the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. to Katchafire. Their love of sharing good vibes, and the semi-hidden references to sharing pakalolo, will make them a favorite among Jawaiian fans both old and new. My favorite picks include "Endlessly", "Darling Angel", "Long Long Time", and "Countryside Party". Bust out the Malolo and ice!

    It is their debut, so one can hear all of the good but there's also a few things I feel need a bit of polishing up. Most of the songs are good, but they are primarily based on dated dancehall styles went out of style when Shabba Ranks had to get a new trailer load of girls. The standard Jawaiian song seems to follow the same pattern: verse/chorus/verse/chorus, and then a big courageous reggae toast. A number of songs would have been fine with the verse/chorus/verse formula but the momentum of the songs slow down when they have to prove they are more reggae than you. They don't need to do that. The keyboard sound is the same one heard on many other Jawaiian albums, I would not mind hearing a different keyboard sound, whether it's running it through some guitar effect pedals, or getting rid of the keyboads and finding a horn section. Even with rich vocal harmonies that make them sound twice their age, a few of the songs (particularly the ballads) sound too much like middle school love poems.

    They may not be true rebels or all out soldiers, but what I hear is a group with a lot of potential, and a band who could be making some incredible music in the next 10 to 20 years. The vocals are sharp, the instrumentation is top notch, and for the kama'aina living away from the islands, it's music that will still remind them (us) of home. I think determination towards stronger songwriting and arrangements will make them band no one would care mess with. The "soul" element in the Souljahz name is evident throughout, and I hope they will not change that.

    (Nothing To Hide is available from BuyHawaiianMusic.com.)


    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The B-52's will have a new album coming out on March 25th titled Funplex (Astralwerks). The title track is the first single off the album, and can be bought digitally through iTunes.

    In honor of the new album, the group will be heading on the road. Here are dates that have been confirmed:

    4.23 - Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
    4.25 - TLA - Philadelphia, PA
    4.26 - 930 Club - Washington, DC
    4.28 - Clutch Cargo's - Detroit, MI
    4.29 - House of Blues - Cleveland, OH
    5.1 - House of Blues - Chicago, IL
    5.2 - Kentucky Derby - Louisville, KY
    5.4 - Gothic Theatre - Englewood, CO
    5.6 - Show Box - Seattle, WA
    5.7 - Roseland - Portland, OR
    5.8 - State Fair - Dixon, CA
    5.9 - venue TBD - San Francisco, CA
    5.11 - House of Blues - Anaheim, CA

  • April 8 is the date that Yoni Ben-Yehuda, a young Israeli Jewish rapper who goes under the name of Sneakas, makes his American debut in the form of an album calledIn It For The Change. He has gained a lot of attention for his style and lyrics, often touching on political and social themes.
    Miri Ben-Ari and Lupe Fiasco both call themselves fans, and the forthcoming album features cameos from Kool G Rap, Ras Kass, and Wordsworth among others. For a listen, click on to Sneakas' official MySpace page.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Awesome Color are ready to release their brand new album, their second for Ecstatic Peace!, called Electric Aborigines. Here is the confirmed track listing:

    1. Eyes of Light (free MP3 download)
    2. Already Down
    3. Step Up
    4. Come and Dance
    5. Taste It
    6. Outside Tonight
    7. Do it Right
    8. Burning
    9. The Moon
    10. Evil Rose

  • John Tsunam has a new song up on his MySpace page called "Asshole", produced by Nocturn. Check it out.

  • The Ubiquity Records podcast has returned after a brief hiatus, you can go to iTunes and catch up on what the label has been doing as of late.

  • KnowMassive will be dropping not one, but two albums this year. One will be called The Misery Love Company, the other is The Cost Of Living. It has been three years since he released his last one, and fans will like the fact that they will have to double up this time around.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The great Light In The Attic label are about to release the final installment in the Jamaica To Toronto album series.

    Innocent Youths by Earth Roots & Water is an album by a band that were meant to be nothing more than a group of musicians that would record instrumentals for Jerry Brown's Summer Records. While that did happen, the group discovered that they enjoyed music on their own terms, and did so while gaining a following in Toronto. Their sound would be appreciated by the British at first, always ahead of the game in terms of ska and reggae, and that would lead to being heard by a new band called The Police. They would eventually ask Earth Roots & Water to open up for them.

    If there was a Canadian equivalent of Lee "Scratch" Perry's sonic boom, it could be found within Brown's studio, as played by Earth Roots & Water.

    The CD will be packaged in a mini-LP cover, similar to what Japanese collectors have enjoyed for years. Everything was remastered from the original master tapes.

    The track listing is as follows:

    1. Innocent Youths
    2. Tribulations
    3. Liberation
    4. Love The Same Old Way
    5. Lou Sent Me
    6. Jah Les' Lament
    7. Liberation

    You can pre-order a copy of the CD through the Light In The Attic website, where you are also able to download a full MP3 of one of the songs on the album, "Tribulations".

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
  • JFJO!!!

    That of course means the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, and they're about to drop a brand new album on April 8th on Hyena Records, Lil Tae Rides Again. The group have just announced dates for their West Coast tour, which which has them playing up and down the coast and a few dates inland, including stops in Boise, Missoula, Denver, and Boulder, so tapers get your batteries refreshed:
    April 4... Tulsa, OK (Blank Slate)
    April 5... Norman, OK (The Deli)
    April 8...San Diego, CA (Winston's)
    April 9... Los Angeles, CA (The Mint)
    April 10...Santa Cruz, CA (Kuumbwa)
    April 11... San Francisco, CA (w/ Mushroom) (Café Du Nord)
    April 12... Arcata, CA (w/ Bluetech and Vibesquad) (Matty’s Party)
    April 14... Ashland, OR (Mobius)
    April 15... Portland, OR (w/ Eleven Eyes) (Doug Fir)
    April 16... Eugene, OR (WOW Hall)
    April 17... Seattle, WA (High Dive)
    April 18... Moscow, ID (John’s Alley)
    April 19... Missoula, MT (The Loft)
    April 24... Fort Collins, CO (w/ Grip Organ Trio) (Hodi’s Half Note)
    April 25... Denver, CO (Oriental Theatre)
    April 26... Boulder, CO (w/ W Mob) (Trilogy)

    Fans in New Orleans will of course be blasted with JFJO-ness with four announced shows in late April/early May, in time for the New Orleans Jazz Festival:
    April 29 / Hi Ho Lounge / New Orleans, LA (w/ Skerik's Maelstrom Trio)
    April 30 / Blue Nile / New Orleans, LA (w/ Big Sam's Funky Nation)
    May 1 / DBA / New Orleans, LA (late night)
    May 4 / Blue Nile / New Orleans, LA

    For a preview of the album, you can download the title track by clicking here. The album itself will be released on vinyl (YES!), compact disc, and through digital merchants.

  • On a self promotional note, can't forget about the greatness that is Book's Music, my weekly podcast of music that takes you around the world, out of the river, through the woods, into space, and perhaps underground. This week features podcast #56, which you can download by clicking to the podcast homepage over at PodOMatic. If you have a request for future themes or concepts for a podcast, pass it along.

  • That's it. More music is still underway, so without delay, let me just say that next week's column should be jam packed with reviews. In the meantime, if you have any music you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page. Vinyl and CD's preferred.

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