Various Artists

Slack Key Guitar Volume 2

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Although record in Hawaii, Slack Key Guitar Volume 2 isn't, for the most part, hardcore native slack-key playing. That's quite apparent from the first cut, the pretty "Celtic Summer" from Bryan Kessler. It's certainly attractive enough, but short on the Island sentiment. Sonny Lim corrects that by covering "Punahele," by the great Raymond Kane (one of two Kane tunes on the disc), and the set really takes off once Keoki Kahumoku gets to "Circle Song." The second half of the album fares better than the first, with more consistency of tone, although the ten artists presented here show their individual flourishes, with Ken Emerson's "Paniolo Medley" a standout. Slack-key guitar music, by its normal laid-back nature, is easy on the ear, a gentle, soothing sound. But at the same time, it's impossible not to think of this as being closer to the Windham Hill spectrum of guitar work than that put out by a label such as Dancing Cat. In other words, at times it veers more toward new age. Listenable and excellently played, it just needs that little bit more.

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