|The Moonlighters - Hello Heartstring|
|Written by Susan Halteman|
Drawing on the roots of Hawaiiana as a popular fad in the 1920s and '30s, the Moonlighters combine traditional island instruments and rhythms with early jazz and more modern folk to produce a swingy and sophisticated album. Reminiscent of the Hot Club of Cowtown and early Squirrel Nut Zippers, the tunes are a mix of jumpin' island-style blues and swaying ballads. This is not the exotica of Lyman or Denny, but instead a reflection of the island music's earliest incarnation in deceptively simple guitar, steel and ukulele melodies.
Ex-Helmet bassist Henry Bogdan lays down a smooth steel guitar over the ukulele of Bliss Blood, former vocalist of the avant/noise group Pain Teens. Jazz bassist Andrew Hall and guitarist/vocalist Carla Murray round out the rest of this diverse group. As unique and unusual as they are individually, the four members of the Moonlighters combine to produce some hauntingly beautiful music. The kiss of an island breeze plays off the smoke of a dangling cigarette as the group melds together like old-timers on Waikiki Beach.
The first track, "Hawaiian Blues/Me, Myself and I" (a take-off on the traditional "Hawaiian War Chant"), is an up-tempo bouncy number, sure to get you up and dancing. The second tune, "Twilight in Flight" shows off the fine ukulele strumming of Ms. Blood, and the standard "Beyond the Reef" is a steel guitar showpiece for Mr. Bogdan. (Alt-Country and traditional country fans will recognize the sound as something that defined that genre.) The strength of Hello Heartstring lies in the artful interpretation of old standards and the juxtaposition of originals made indistinguishable by the fine musicianship of the Moonlighters.
Fans of early jazz, 30s hot swing and traditional Hawaiiana will surely find this CD enjoyable, as will anyone looking for something a little different, but still swingin'.