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Slack Key Guitar: The Artistry of Jeff Peterson

Jeff Peterson

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Album Review

Jeff Peterson, a slack key guitarist from a paniolo community on Maui, has training in other forms of guitar playing, including classical and jazz. As a result, his technique is somewhat different from many of the old slack key masters — his sound is cleaner, arguably a little more sparse, and there is less of the usual self-harmonizing with the bass strings. As a result, the overall effect is a little less full, but perhaps a little brighter as well. This is slack key with a bit more modern touch, in the realm of a group like Kohala (indeed, Kohala's Charles Michael Brotman is the producer of Peterson's album). His playing is certainly able, with not a note missing from where it should be. At the same time, his sound is just a little less organic than that of a Sonny Chillingworth or Ledward Kaapana. This serves to differentiate him from the pack, which can be a boon or a bane, depending on the listener. The songs chosen on Slack Key Guitar: The Artistry of Jeff Peterson are a mix of original jams and old pieces from the masters (and, of course, Queen Lili). The mix works well for Peterson, showing his slightly less traditional side as well as the musical lineage from whence he comes. For a set of entirely traditional and homegrown slack key, the album doesn't quite deliver. For a glimpse at an artist in stylistic transition between the old and new, this album succeeds entirely.

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