John Berger Review, Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Friday, January 26, 2007

Keola Beamer is so well-established as a slack-key master that he could easily put his recording career on cruise control and keep his fans satisfied by starting each year with the release of a new album of slack-key instrumentals. He could, but he doesn’t. On “Ka Hikina O Ka Hau,” Beamer teams up with arranger Daniel O’Donoghue to step outside the traditional context of slack key to explore an assortment of non-Hawaiian melodies. Many relate to winter in some way; most are the works of Western classical composers.But the theme and the concept are only the beginning of this exquisitely crafted project. O’Donoghue utilizes modern multitracking technology to let Beamer accompany himself on two or more guitars, each with a different tuning. Some arrangements also contrast the sound of nylon strings and steel strings (information on the multiple tunings and more is found in the detailed liner notes).George Winston sits in to play muted and plucked piano on “Poli’ahu,” and eight-string steel-string guitar on “The Little Drummer Boy”/”Winter Aloha.” The two guest spots work well, too. This album probably doesn’t fit the criteria for the Grammy Awards’ Hawaiian music album category, but it is beautiful and imaginative work throughout.Beamer writes that it was never intended to be a slack-key album, but he and his friends succeed brilliantly in applying the essence of ki ho’alu to these beautiful melodies.

Wayne Harada Review, Honolulu Advertiser Friday, February 2, 2007

Keola Beamer Charts A Different Course

“The Coming of Snow (Ka Hikina O Ka Hau)” by Keola Beamer; RCA/Dancing Cat Records

  • Genre: Acoustic guitar, in the slack-key tradition.
  • Distinguishing notes: Keola Beamer, one of the architects of the popularity of contemporary ki ho’alu, stretches the boundaries of his artistry in this personal, expressive journey.

He declares, in his liner sentiments, that this “is not a slack-key recording … it was never intended to be.” In a departure from his Hawaiian sphere, Beamer explores the works of classical composers and interprets some well-known, along with some not-so-known, compositions that enable him to to impose his personal palette of guitar colors and tonality to repertoire generally foreign to his art form.The results are amazingly sweet, and coupled with the wintry cover image (the guitar set against a snowy landscape), even Christmasy Segments from “The Little Drummer Boy” fused with the George Winston ditty “Winter Aloha,” sound like Santa must be near. But tunes such as the Brazilian “Tutu Marimba” suggest quiet and solitude, much like the stillness of fresh-fallen snow. Beamer’s favorite snow odyssey, “Poli’ahu (The Mauna Kea Snow Goddess),” features Winston on muted and plucked piano, creating a landscape of exquisite beauty and stillness.Rimsky-Korsakov’s familiar “Song of India,” Mendelsohn’s “Venetian Boat Song” and Stravinsky’s “Lullaby of the Cat” further provide artistic challenges.Beamer redefines his musical language on selections from Satie’s “Gymnopedie.” His style at once demonstrates his respect for the material and his reimagined “new” hybrid, fusing Hawaiian tradition with the classics. The arrangements, for acoustic and electric guitar (all played by Beamer), are by Daniel O’Donoghue with occasional Beamer collaboration; for guitarists, tuning chords and string details accompany each of the 20 tracks.Our take: Still right on the Beamer, in concept and in execution.