Slack key guitar originated in Hawaii in the second half of the 19th century and has become more prominent today thanks to labels like Dancing Cat. The strings of a guitar are loosened to create open tunings (slack keys) and the guitarist plays by fretting the strings with his or her left hand while picking out the bass and melody with his or her right hand. In the Saddle presents two great guitarists for the price of one: slack key master Led Kaapana and steel guitar champion Bob Brozman. Together they tackle a handful of traditional Hawaiian songs, delivering 70 minutes of lovingly performed guitar music. The lively romp "Wai'alae Waltz" finds the two guitarists swapping leads and intermingling styles to the rhythm of the tablas. "In the Saddle" begins slowly, with cascading notes falling from the guitar, only to leap into a vivacious dance melody. There are also a number of slower pieces, as with the charming "No Ke Ano Ahiahi" and "Ahoe Hakuloa." There are two pleasant vocals by Kaapana on "Meleana E" and "Aloha Iâ O Wain'anae" that add a little spice to the whole affair. Teaming these players proves to be a great idea. They inspire and push one another onward, creating a rich musical stew and a blending of styles. For fans of Hawaiian music, or for anyone who appreciates good guitar, In the Saddle is a satisfying release.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.