Digital Fix: Billy Kaui

Bands / Artists

New year, huh? What's on the resolution list? 1. Get back to the islands. 2. Eat more lau lau and poke. 3. Find more hard-to-find Hawaiian LPs. Accomplishing #1 means the other two will easily fall into place. But what if I'm not on the islands? Well, there's a few Hawaiian food spots around town. And what about finding more Hawaiian music? The local record shops don't offer much outside of touristy albums, eBay auctions usually end beyond the reach of my wallet, and Japanese web stores are even further beyond that. Which is why I'm adding a new series to the blog: the Digital Fix. When the vinyl is too elusive, the CD never in stock, and download links nonexistent, I rely on places like iTunes and eMusic to satisfy my ears. Granted they don't have everything, but if you dig around you'll find some good tunes worth dropping ten bucks on. Here's to a new year and a new endeavor for Aloha Got Soul.

Billy Kaui, Jimmy Freudenberg, Chuck Lee

Billy Kaui was the lead singer of Country Comfort, a Hawaiian folk band whose lazy, sometimes jazzy tunes are still popular throughout the islands. Local CC classics include "Sunlight, Moonlight", "Hello Waimanalo", "Pretty Girl" and "Rainy Day Song". Similar to CSNY with their three- and four-part harmonies, but with plenty more slack-key. The band found trouble in excessive alcohol, marijuana, and hard drug consumption. In late 1977, a few years after CC had disbanded, Kaui recorded his only solo effort. A few months later, Kaui died of drug-related abuse. He was 28.

Japanese release on Mele/Philips

Kaui's versatility proves itself throughout the entire album, from the Jamaican vibes of "Mr. Reggae"* to a prog rock tune called "Working on the Railroad"; "Empty" echoes Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke", and Kaui's own "Words to a Song" is an understated, bassline-driven song compared to Babadu's smile-heavy take. *(The song "Reggae Music", heard at 38:37 on DJ Muro's Hawaiian Breaks mix, nods respectfully to "Mr. Reggae"). While the LP goes for $15-45 online, the digital version is only $5 (eMusic) or $10 (iTunes). In fact, you could grab a few Country Comfort releases plus Kaui's album for under $20 total (eMusic). How's that for a fix!

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