Peter Rowan has been one of America's masters of acoustic music since the '60s, and given his enthusiasm for various regional music forms, it should come as no surprise that he has a soft spot for vintage Hawaiian music. Traditional Hawaiian music -- as well as popular music that was modeled on Hawaiian styles -- enjoyed a burst of popularity in the '20s, around the same time that artists like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers were bringing country music to a mass audience for the first time. (Rodgers and the Carters even recorded tunes that were inspired by the sounds of the Islands.) Released in 2017, My Aloha! is an album Rowan created with a handful of Honolulu musicians, intended to reflect the cultural crosstalk between American rural music and the native sounds of Hawaii. Ultimately, the country and bluegrass side of this album is overwhelmed by the Hawaiian influences, which have been put front and center. The excellence of Rowan's sidemen also plays a significant role; with guitarists Jeff Au Hoy and Kilin Reece and ukulele man Douglas Po'oloa Tolentino showing off their estimable skills, there isn't much room for bluegrass picking, especially at the naturally laid-back pace of these tunes, running counter to the hopped-up tempo of classic bluegrass. My Aloha! may fall short of the mark as an experiment in musical cross-pollination, but as a sweetly relaxed celebration of Hawaiian music, it hits the spot, with Rowan's vocals and guitar work fitting these settings like a glove. This isn't quite music for a beach party, but if you want something to listen to as you watch the sun set at the end of a beautiful day on the sand, this should fit the bill perfectly.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming