Keola Beamer

Soliloquy: Ka Leo O Loko

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Keola Beamer is one of the top names of Hawaiian slack-key guitar, since the death of the old masters. On his seventh solo album, he freely mixes original and slack-key classics, generally working alone (several tracks feature overdubs), while duetting with label head George Winston -- better known for his piano work, but playing guitar here -- on "Na Hala O Naue." The meat of slack-key, which is fingerpicked in many different tunings, is the sumptuous melodies, and Beamer has no shortage of those. He's so well-versed in the tradition that he can make "Pauahi 'O Kalani," composed in 1868, and his own "The Myna Bird's Dobro" seem completely natural next to each other. His laid-back picking is crisp and clear, and when he features an overdubbed guitar, as on "Pua Liliehua," the second instrument imitates the vocal trio of the original version with a resonant richness that fills out the melody with some glorious harmonies. Beamer's tunings and use of the capo to offer different keys show the kind of real invention that's kept him at the forefront of the genre and also helped make him a great teacher. Winston's production manages to be both clean and warm, letting the notes ring with the depth they need. A glorious work.

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