Ahumanu: The Gathering, Ahumanu (Ululoa Productions)
By Michael Keany
In this debut album from Maui trio Ahumanu, it’s all about the harmonies. Something about the voices of members Liz “Kopa‘a Tita” Morales, Joni DeMello and her mother, Bessie DeMello, seems to lock together perfectly in traditional Hawaiian-language songs such as “Ipo Lei Manu.” They knock Frank Hewett’s “Sweet Lahaina Nights” out of the park, and nicely reclaim Elvis Presley’s “Drums of the Islands.” Even guest musicians bring the vocal magic: piano-man-about-town Ata Damasco turns in an exemplary duet with Morales on “Ua Noho Au a Kupa.” The instrumentation and production supporting the vocal work are warm and understated, and actually, the entire affair is pretty relaxed. The most energetic cut is the gentle, bubbly instrumental “KP Shuffle,” written by Morales in honor of ‘ukulele shaper Ken Potts. But things never descend into treacle, even on “Wedding Medley,” which combines “Kawohikukapulani” with the English-language “If I Give My Heart to You.” Don’t miss: Queen Lili‘uokalani’s “Ahe Lau Makani.”
Quite a debut. Ahumanu have created a name for themselves on Maui with their live performances, and The Gathering should cement their reputation across the state.