The wait is over for fans of the Hawaiian slack-key artist Ray Sowders. His latest release, entitled Ho'omalie, (to calm, hush or soothe), will be released in January 2005. With 13 tracks, fans will not be disappointed as Ray packs even more of his unique guitar style than his critically-acclaimed debut CD Kukuna Mehana. Ray again joins forces with Shawn Ishimoto, giving Shawn an even bigger role in the CD.
In a departure of the ordinary, there are surprise uses of harp, grand piano, and strings, expanding on Ray's musical production and audio engineering. This recording is filled with sheer emotion as it re-explores the bond between slack key and hula - the two most traditional styles of Hawaiian music. Ukulele, steel guitar and hula implements are frequently included throughout the recording, creating a dancer's feel. One can almost imagine the movement of a hula dancer while listening.
In the hula selections the slack key flows freely along with the ukulele and steel guitar returning to the original way they were integrated.
Three songs are in English, nine in Hawaiian. One is a medley combining two "cowboy" songs. A version of Hawaiian Rough Riders with an English center section called I'm a Cowboy written by Ray's late brother John. Both artists play a variety of instruments and sing. Local steel guitar wizard Bobby Ingano contributes his magic to eight of the songs. The keyboard stylings of Michael Ruff can he heard on It's to Love as well as his fine piano solo in Try Again. Local kumu hula, singer and musician Ainsley Halemanu plays ukulele on Mahina 'O Hoku.
Sowders' debut CD, Kukuna Mehana (The warming rays of the sun) was praised by critics... "Excellent musical portrait" (John Berger, Honolulu Star-Bulletin), "a delight to listen to" (Aloha Joe). Sowders connected with Ishimoto, known years ago as "BB Shawn", who performed and recorded with Henry Kapono, the Ka'u Crater Boys, and Ophi Pickers to name a few, along with his own solo career, releasing three of his own CDs. He played bass throughout Kukuna Mehana and contributed electric guitar work on To Be as Free as You. On Ho'omalie, Ishimoto plays bass, electric guitar, ukulele and sings most of the back-up vocals. After the first recording, "we have been gigging ever since," says Ray.
With a clean, smooth voice, and the mentoring of slack-key instructors Ray Kane and Oz Kotani, Ray developed a sound all his own. Shawn's nearly indescribable fusion of Jazz, Bluegrass, and many other styles reveal his interest in many forms of music that he plays by ear.
Sowders performs solo at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki "Elegant Dive" three nights per week. For more information, call 808-672-6441, or visit www.raysowders.com
Check out the artist's website:
1. Ka Makani Kaili Aloha
2. Puna Kuu Aloha
3. Cowboy Medley
4. It's To Love
5. Hanohano Wailea
6. Aloha Lahaina
7. Mahina O Hoku
8. Try Again
9. The Water is Wide
10. He Aloha No O Honolulu
11. He Inoa Wehi No Ka Pau O Hiiaka
12. Nani Wale
13. He Nani No Kaala