Cindy Combs

Slack Key Lady

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Historically, most recordings have included the Hawaiian slack key guitar sound only as accompaniment in a group setting. On Dancing Cat Records' Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Series, producer George Winston brings the solo guitar to the forefront, showcasing the stylings of the greatest solo guitarists in the islands. Combs was born in San Diego but took lessons from slack key master Keola Beamer in the early '70s and became part of the Hawaiian musical renaissance that took place during that decade. Though she's won various contests and recorded one previous album, this marks the Kauai resident's most accomplished set to date. Though the casual fan or curious listener might not catch all the nuances of this acoustic guitar-based style -- the best instrumentals like "Makani 'Ula'uala" and "Ke Welina" sound to the uneducated ear like simple, sweet folksy ballads with a lot of colorful improvisational noodling -- there are subtleties galore that make this a strong addition to the genre. Brief but engaging solo gems like "Wahine 'Ilikea" display a powerful mastery of the genre. The collection features two originals and ten Hawaiian standards that make for passionate coffeehouse listening. While it's interesting to hear her husky voice tackle the handful of Hawaiian language vocals, it's clear that she's more a guitarist who sings than vice versa. Extensive liner notes detail the origin and chord progression of each song on a recording that could easily function as a primer on this unique niche genre.

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