Review by Gerald Van Waes
Former radio producer and webmaster for radio show, Psyche Van Het Folk
Radio Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium
Alicia started to live and breathe the essences of the island of Hawaii with its own special ‘heart’ energy. Like she expressed the hippie life book and album, this album expresses original and historic Hawaiian songs, accompanied by a slack key guitar with the help of Lei’ohu Ryder, singer and spiritualist with roots in Hawaiian culture, Sam Ahia, vocalist and jazz guitarist and Rick Asher Keefer, with some ukulele and percussion and vocals. Different from the previous album that seemed to have been an expression of immediate life energy, here a few song experiences have a kind of nostalgic souljazz in them even as if something is lost but still remembered. Elsewhere I feel sadness as if being an ode to the original Hawaiian joyful soul, while the historical songs are the immediate reference, while guitar instrumentals like “Sassy / Manuela Boy / Livin’ On Easy” are performed with a blues feeling. Other tracks, like the titletrack have all the luck and sunshine of Hawaii most brightly in them.
Review by Chris Roth
Founding member of Lost Valley Ecovillage
Former Editor, Talking Leaves Magazine
Our friend Alicia Bay Laurel (author and illustrator of the 1971 bestselling book Living On The Earth) has put together an album of original and historic Hawai’ian songs, sung with slack key guitar. After more than twenty-five years living in Hawai’i, Alicia has obviously absorbed much of the spirit of her adopted home—a spirit she conveys with great respect and also an effervescent joy. Most of this is lovely music about what’s good in life on an island where native culture and nature are still respected and honored by such “adopted natives” as Alicia.
Just as important, several songs point to the threats and damage to Hawai’i’s people and land done by less respectful outsiders, and a call, gently and beautifully, for a return to balance and sovereignty.
Review by Stanton Swihart
September 23, 2001
It took Alicia Bay Laurel nearly half of a lifetime and years of concerted study in a variety of styles before completing her debut album, but, oh, was it worth the wait. A gorgeous amalgam of John Fahey-style fingerpicking, modal passages, and lovingly sacred sentiments, Music from Living on the Earth was a sparkling stream of music pure from the heart. It took but mere months for Laurel to back up those sentiments with a second album that is every bit as compelling and beautifully realized, although it is considerably different in both tone and purpose.
Living in Hawai’i Style is, instead, a collection of Hawaiian songs – some traditional, some native and, indeed, some from the pen of Laurel herself, a longtime resident of the 50th state. Although a few have (most notably jazz guitarist George Benson), ha’oles (or “gringos”) have not traditionally been accepted with ease into the wider Hawaiian musical community. But Laurel proves herself acutely in-tuned to the nuances, subtleties, and details of traditional island styles, and the gorgeous open-key melodies or her original tunes are tailor-made to Hawaii’s deep legacy of slack-key guitar. Without debating the notion of authenticity, it can be said, at the very least, that Living is a supremely humble and giving album, both towards the listener and towards the Hawaiian musical history that it upholds and extends. That it goes well beyond is the album’s most endearing grace. Far from playing shallow and dilettantish, Living is, in fact, a paradisiacal love letter to Hawaii’s musical lore and to the place the artist calls home, and it could not honor the tradition any more than it does.
Laurel studied Hawaiian musical culture for more than two decades before even attempting to put her learning on tape (although some of the original songs date to the mid 1970s), and the album benefits greatly from that level of sensitivity and deference, as it incorporates nearly every style endemic to the islands, from ancient chant and drinking songs to a birthday tune, wedding songs, wonderfully breezy hulas, environmental anthems and songs of welcome. With ample help from the widely respected Hawaiian jazz-guitar great Sam Ahia and ravishing vocal support from spiritualist, composer, and educator Lei’ohu Ryder, Living in Hawai’i Style is every bit the blissful oasis that Hawaii often seems itself.
Review on Amazon.com by Pam Hanna
November 21, 2001
In her first CD, Alicia Bay Laurel wrote and performed all of the songs, and it was a wonderful musical tour de force. On “Living in Hawaii Style,” other performers, writers and musicians make an appearance to excellent advantage. Alicia’s liner notes are a virtual musical primer on Hawaii – its musical history, genres, culture, geography, flora and fauna, as well as some magical personal history on how she came to know these people and places and enter into their music and their lives.
Traditional Hawaiian songs are included here (Nanakuli, from the 1890’s) as well as steel and nylon string guitars in standard and open tunings (known as Ki ho’alu or slack key) and “hapa ha’ole” (meaning half-foreign, one of a genre of swing tunes with tropical lyrics) as in “Moonlight and Shadows” with the smooth-voiced Sam Ahia.
Koa ukeleles, an ipu (gourd drum), pu’ili (bamboo rattles), pu (large conch shell used as a wind instrument), ti leaf rattles, slack key, steel and nylon string guitars, and ki ho’alu (open-tuned guitar, Hawai’ian style) are heard. Several songs, such as “Kawailehua’a’alakahonua” and “Holua, Kapalaoa and Paliku,” are sung in Hawaiian. The second of these is introduced with an original chant in the ancient style created and sung by Lei’ohu Ryder. The liner notes define Hawaiian words such as “Waikaloa” – “fresh water that is endless,” “A’a” a sharp, jagged lava and “Laupaho’eho’e” a smooth, ropy lava.”
One of my favorites is written and performed by Alicia alone (harmonizing with herself), “Ukulele Hula” – a lilting sing-along kind of song that embodies the feeling and spirit of Hawai’i. Has the feel of a years-old traditional song. “In Paradise, everybody is a lover.” Balmy, swaying breezy, rolling, it’s a “breezy afternoon and a sunset on the ocean.”
But the song that tugs most at the heart, for me, is “Kanikau, O Hawaii!”, written by Ginni Clemmons and sung by Lei’ohu Ryder and Alicia. “Kanikau” means “a mournful cry.”
“Oh Hawai’i, you’ve lost your innocence/ How can we get it back?/ Have we claimed you? Have we shamed you?/Have we spoiled the prize we’ve won?/ By taking you against your will,/Like all greedy lovers do./ Oh Hawai’i… we’re sorry/ Those who care are crying tears of shame./ ….Teach us the ways of nature,/ So that peace can end this war. Oh Hawai’i.”/
Lilting, haunting and lovely, the melody opens the heart to Hawai’i as she is, as she was.
This CD is pure pleasure. Just listen!
Review on Aloha Plenty Hawaii
by Doug and Sandy McMaster
September 28, 2001
“Any woman who has a great deal to offer the world is in trouble.” ~ Hazel Scott
In 1970, she wrote Living on the Earth which hit the bestseller list in 1971. She published 8 more books during the 70’s, and moved to Maui. Last year she released a CD entitled “Music From Living On the Earth” including 16 songs she had written at the time of the first publication.
Living on Maui and visiting the other islands, Alicia was
influenced by the musical stylings of Hawaii. She learned
traditional and contemporary songs as well as writing her
own. Spring of 2001 took her to the Big Island and into
the recording studio once again to create “Living in Hawaii
Style”. On this recording she’s joined by the Hawaiian
jazz guitarist Sam Ahia, spiritualist Lei’ohu Ryder, Rick
Asher Keefer. The recording includes several of her
originals as well as contemporary and jazz favorites.
It includes slack and standard guitar, ukulele, chants, ipu
(gourd), ukulele, and more.
It’s good to hear more women playing slack key… hence the quote I included in this issue. Having spent time in Hana on Maui we understand Alicia’s sentiments. A magical place with very special people. Her folk/pop renditions are nice and catchy. Alicia will be touring in support of her CD so watch for her coming your way… she has some great stories from her time on Maui. We met Alicia and her friend Joe atsunset by the bay.* Hope to see you there again soon Alicia!
And hope life is good for you on Big Island.
*Doug and Sandy are often found performing slack key guitar and ukulele duets at sunset at one of the beachparks in Hanalei, Kaua’i. Their music is beautiful! Their CDs are available at their web site (link above), which is a wonderful resource on ki hoalu (slack key guitar). ~ABL
Review in Newsgroups: alt.music.hawaiian
A new CD by Alicia Bay Laurel… some slack key, some jazz, some vintage Hawaiian… beautiful songs honoring her teacher and places on Maui that touched her heart. And a happy birthday, Hawaiian style, song too!
From Judy Barrett, former music industry professional in Honolulu, August 1, 2002:
I asked Led [slack key legend Ledward Ka’apana] to keep an eye out for you at the Hilo festival [the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival]. “She one haole girl? Kinda hippie?” Yeah, that sounds about right, I said. Turned out he’d already met you at one of his workshops in Hilo a few months ago. Said you played some of your compositions for him. I asked, “So?” He said you were pretty good. Now, I know that sounds pretty dang low key, but, from him, it truly is high praise. Enjoy it!
Sounds like you had a great time. I love that little festival!
September 4, 2001
We just reviewed your charming release “Living In Hawai’i Style”. It is refreshing to know there are still some artists performing and recording in the islands who appreciate our magnificent musical roots.
You original compositions offer a compelling story of what is happening to beloved Hawai’i. Usually, most artists only record their complaints, not solutions. You are the difference. Even though you are not native to the islands, you have the feel of the land and people.
When I was involved with the original “Hawai’i Calls” radio program, and the newer version, I always looked forward the most to the more traditional and hapa-haole numbers.
This is a most enjoyable musical experience.
Aloha nui loa,
J Hal Hodgson
Ports of Paradise
September 12, 2001
I am delighted to have shared in your CD project. The songs are clearly from your heart. You are a gift to our islands. The makana who has been called to service the vision of aloha and maluhia for the world.
Congratulations on such a fine job. May you continue to heal the people in your work.
“What a nice recording. You did a very good job.”
January 21, 2002
Auntie Nona Beamer
Mother of Keola and Kapono Beamer
And Hawaiian Music Legend in Her Own Right
“I’ve been listening to your Hawaiian album. I love it. Every single song! I hardly ever listen to other people’s music because my brain is just so full of my own. Right now I’m listening to Track 3. I love your voice; it’s so perfect, so lovely and sensual!”
June 28, 2011
Jazz vocalist and visual artist
Creator of the Ragananda doll, books and videos
I Absolutely LOVED YOUR Hawaiian CD! I especially loved your stories, like that of Auntie Alice. For those of us who had lived there and loved Paradise yet saw firsthand the impact on the old Hawaiian culture, those stories mean a lot.
I think we both saw Hawaii thru the same set of eyes while we were living there – I like the way you succinctly articulated it both here and thru the songs and stories on the CD – It will always hold a very special place in my heart, but what happened to the lovely gentle native people there was very similar to other Native Americans — yet you captured their Joy and Aloha spirit with your sweet Music, Alicia!!!!
Aloha Nui Nui,
Linda Joy Lewis
Author of vegan cookbook classic Earth Angel Kitchen