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Slack Key Lady

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Album Review

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.


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Kaua'i -based multi-instrumentalist Cindy Combs is one of the few women to master the slack key guitar tradition of Hawaii. A former student of influential slack key guitarist Keola Beamer, Combs continues to grow as a player, blending traditional Hawaiian music with cool jazz influences. Accompanied by her nine-piece band, Ha'awi Hemolele 'O Keakawaiola, and a hula dancer, Combs opened for Taj Mahal at a much-publicized benefit concert for Kaua'i community radio station, KKCR, in spring 2002. Appearing...
Full Bio
Slack Key Lady, Cindy Combs
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  • $16.99
  • Genres: World, Music, Hawaii
  • Released: 11 September 2001

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