The Austin Chronicle

Gift Guide 2015: The Boxing Lesson

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, December 18, 2015, Music

"For the tourist, not the purist." Perfect PR. Since owning Hawaiian soil only happens to neighbors Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (and okay, even they likely lease), the rest of us can only souvenir the 50th state. Hulaland: The Golden Age of Hawaiian Music thus serves Oceania with an umbrella drink. Sumptuously designed and researched, and doubling as a poster book of Mad Men-age travel iconography, this 4-CD gift shop prize plunges into its aural island program on "From Hollywood to Honolulu 1931-1957," with vintage film tunes and dialogue (Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Lamour), and equally ancient soundtracking: Louis Armstrong's bookending belts "On a Little Bamboo Bridge" and "On a Coconut Island." Disc two spans Duke Ellington to Hawaii Five-O, Martin Denny to Santo & Johnny, and the Ventures to Richie Allen (who should've yielded for the Mermen's version of "The Quiet Surf" instead). Third disc's the charm – for the purist: "Hawaiian Classics." Lap steel and slack-key pioneers King Benny Nawahi, Sol Hoopii, and Kalama's Quartet dominate. Ukulele lady Clara Inter (Hilo Hattie) co-rules. A contemporary final disc falls flat after such volcanic heights, but you'll be back. Book it, Danno.


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