Hula Honeys Take Hawaii to the Mainland

A Hui Hou
Community Music
* * *

If the Andrews Sisters had gone to Hawaii and added a few island tunes to their repertoire, they would have sounded a bit like the Hula Honeys. This frothy collection of jazz standards and Hapa Haole tunes (island tunes sung in English) sports tight harmonies, swingy beats, a sunny disposition, and some songs that are not in English. The Hula Honeys are Robyn Kneubuhl and Ginger Johnson who are that most rare of things–women singing songs from the South Pacific who are actually from Hawaii. Johnson's case is even rarer; she's a Haole (white) who is musically conversant in native languages. These ukulele and guitar-rooted songs sound easy and natural. They also sound vintage and it’s not because the Hula Honeys supplement their island set list with pieces such as Johnny Mercer’s “Too Marvelous for Words” or the Bill Loughborough/David Wheat classic “Better Than Anything.” Take “Girl in the Coconut Hat,” which sounds like it may have come from a 1940s movie soundtrack but is actually a Johnson original. The Hula Honeys do a lot of that. Their cover of Mel Peterson’s “You’re at a Lu’au Now” makes you feel like you’re contemplating Hawaii as it appears on a sepia-tinted pre-World War II postcard. In 2010, Kneubuhl and Johnson won an award for the best Hawaiian jazz album (Girl Talk). A Hui Hou (Until We Meet Again) is slightly folkier, though guest steel guitar, saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet assure that the music always sways and that it remains true to the template of classic Hawaiian female ensembles. Those of us who live thousands of miles to the east, which is most of us, may find the idea of “hula” music a bit odd. I say, give it a try–you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

You can hear two tracks on the Hula Honeys website.
Rob Weir 

No comments: