A misconception should be cleared up at the outset. The typical classification of Makana as a world music artist specializing in the Hawaiian style of slack key guitar playing may call to mind an exotic, traditional sound, but Different Game, his fourth album, is nothing like that. A listener coming upon it without knowing of the artist's background would never suspect Makana's origins. This is an album within a familiar tradition, but not a Hawaiian one. The antecedents are early-'70s folk-rock singer/songwriters like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and John Denver, or, later on, adult contemporary pop/rockers like Kenny Loggins and Phil Collins. Makana, a guitar virtuoso, does break out the occasional solo, in a style that some will find closer to the Southwest than the Pacific Islands. But for the most part, he is interested in creating melodic soft rock/pop songs full of romantic clichés and sensitive sentiments that he sings earnestly. When he drifts to other subjects, it's to look at the Iraq War from an agonized GI's perspective ("Mars Declares") or criticize the star-making machinery of the music business ("Necksnap Blues"), the kind of topics other singer/songwriters have also felt drawn to. There is a large baby-boomer audience that would welcome the familiar sound of Different Game if it ever got to hear the record. For that to happen, however, it will have to be rescued from the world music bin and exposed to the kind of contemporary adults who can appreciate it.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann