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Sonny Solo

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Album Review

Incorporating country & western, Puerto Rican, and Mexican styles, Chillingworth is first and foremost a singing cowboy, gifted with a quavering Mauna Kea-tumbleweed voice that sets him apart from other Hawaiian slack key guitarists. Anyone who can deliver a narrative about a rider who falls into a lava tube with his horse without generating unintended humor deserves respect. "Kaula ili" in fact is quite touching, showcasing Chillingworth's dexterous guitar work and connecting its "get up and ride again" philosophy with his own ongoing battle against cancer. This disc could glide by on resonance alone, but he plays like a man at the peak of his powers navigating the demanding waltz "Halona" and decorating "Ho'omalu Slack Key" with hammer-on and pull-off effects.


Born: 1930

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

To understand exactly how the gentle, ploink-a-plunk sounds of slack-key guitar manage to remain popular in the days of electronic music and beat-heavy hip-hop, one needs to understand the influence of artists such as Sonny Chillingworth. He grew up among Big Island paniolos (cowboys) and old-school slack-key guitar players. When he moved out of ranch country and into the big city in his late teens, he managed to bring the music of the old days along with him. It was to be his defining characteristic,...
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Sonny Solo, Sonny Chillingworth
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