On Hawaiian Love Songs, George Kahumoku skillfully manages the delicate balancing act of stretching the sonic boundaries of slack-key guitar technique while keeping the music firmly rooted in tradition. On tracks like “The Queen’s Prayer,” which features a bass-string glissando inspired by the Chantays’ surf-guitar classic “Pipeline,” Kahumoku’s 12-string guitar playing recalls the intricate picking of a young Leo Kottke.
On gentler tracks like “Nu’oli” and “Nakalele” he revels in the gorgeous melodies that Hawaiian musicians seem to produce in endless streams. Kahumoku is joined by vocalist Diana Aki for a duet on the tragic love song “Keiki Mahine.” Other guest artists include slide-guitar master Bob Brozman and harmonica player Norton Buffalo, who adds a soulful blues wail to “Lei Pikake.”
Hawaiian Love Songs is a beautiful blend of contemporary slack-key guitar playing by a musician who respects the past, but doesn’t feel compelled to repeat it. — Michael Simmons.