Troy Fernandez, Hawaiian Style ‘Ukulele, Neos Productions
It’s been almost 10 years since the Ka‘au Crater Boys broke up, but it’s hard to forget the magic duo that Ernie Cruz Jr. and Troy Fernandez made. For everyone still playing On Fire and Tropical Hawaiian Day on regular rotation—good news. Troy Fernandez’s first solo instrumental album is classic Crater Boys. His Hawaiian-style ‘ukulele playing hasn’t changed a bit (hence the album title), and Tazra Vegas fills in the bottom end capably, taking over the rhythm guitar duties that were once Cruz’s. All that’s missing are the vocals.
If the sound is familiar, so are the songs. Fernandez gets in one co-writing credit on “TNC,” but otherwise the track listing reads like the playlist of a thousand afternoon barbecues: “Guava Jam,” “Maui Hawaiian Suppa Man,” “Waimanalo Blues.”
Familiar isn’t bad—this album is the aural equivalent of comfort food. But as Fernandez wraps up the album with a tasty reworking of the classic Ka‘au Crater Boys cut “On Fire,” it’s hard not to imagine what kind of music the Boys could be making if they were still together. For now, Hawaiian Style ‘Ukulele will do just fine.
It missed out on the Na Hoku Hanohano’s Instrumental Album of the Year award, but this is the best ‘uke album you’ll hear all year.