Henry Kapono,
(Kapono, 2011)

Henry Kapono is something of a Hawaiian legend. From his work as a duo with Cecilio Rodriguez to his solo performances as the "Wild Hawaiian," he has created a body of work that represents a dynamic cross-section of Island music -- from a raw sound to a sophisticated, elaborate one, he has successfully bridged a variety of approaches.

This album is a statement of where he stands musically today. He offers fine examples of acoustic, Jawaiian (reggae with a distinct Hawaiian touch) and contemporary pop styles. Performing vocals, guitar, ukulele and piano on the dozen songs, he is joined by bassist Jonathan Hawes, Ricky Peterson (various keyboards), Konrad Kendrick on drums and Jackie Bertone on percussion. His emotional, rasping voice draws the listener into the lyrics allowing the poignancy and drive to hit home.

"I'm Coming Home" could be a story of a musician's longing for home and family, but has a universal appeal for anyone who has traveled, no matter for how long or how far; "I Can't Imagine That" deals with true love without being maudlin; "Sunny Sky Serenade" fulfills the dream of surrounding oneself with the people who mean most. And on "Heart of the Warrior," he lifts a high-energy album to an even wilder level, as he's joined by slam poet Kealoha. This kind of poetry is not something I normally enjoy, but in this context, Keahola is the perfect partner -- the in-line rhyming, and the frantic vocal, along with the driving percussion and screaming guitar, combine to create an unforgettable finale.

This may be a romantic album, but Kapono doesn't fall into the trap of offering a saccharine view of life. Powerful accompaniments, fascinating rhythms, eclectic sounds and his vocal approach combine to make a relevant, attractive album. He knows how to write a good song and he knows how to present it.

music review by
Jamie O'Brien

25 May 2013

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