Slack Key Circus

Barefoot Natives


Barefoot Natives LLC

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Since the advent of the Grammy Awards’ Hawaiian music category in 2005, ki hoalu, or slack key music, has enjoyed a renaissance, with an avalanche of guitar-centered albums filling the shelves of local music stores. Maui’s favorite party duo, Willie Kahaialii and Eric Gilliom, are back with a slack key album of their own, but it’s far from the sober-sided instrumental affair that has become the norm for the genre.

Instead, the Barefoot Natives’ Slack Key Circus cranks out light-hearted ditties on modern life in the islands, from beat-up old Maui Cruisers to huli-huli chicken. Some of the songs veer into generic territory (“Only wanna party, party with you,” runs the chorus of one song), but the rote bar sing-alongs are more than made up for by gems such as “Eia La,” an irresistible Hawaiian-language romp with ’20s-era jazz flourishes that include fake trumpet solos sung by the pair.

Kahaialii retains his knack for creating sunny, relaxed compositions—“E Komo Mai” and “My Home Town” positively glow with good vibes. And the Natives have nixed the classic-rock covers that bogged down their debut album; all but two tracks here are Kahaialii- or Gilliom-penned originals.

Bottom line: The perfect album to cruise around Lahaina with.

To listen to the entire album online, or to purchase the CD, visit

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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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