Fri, 19 December 2014
How do you write about Willie K.? You can’t. You simply cannot. It’s like trying to describe the damage a tornado leaves in its wake. It’s like trying to describe the many colors in a flame. It’s like trying to describe the speed of cars whizzing around the track at Talladega. If you cannot describe any of these, then you cannot describe the speeding, flaming tornado that is Willie K.
A man who has proven that he can conquer every realm in entertainment – including film – over the last 25 years, Willie’s specialty is anything with strings.
He’s an amazing guitar virtuoso, a Hawaiian Jimi Hendrix; he’s Gabby Pahinui, Andres Segovia and Eddie Van Halen rolled into one. Willie can mimic seemingly any style, moving easily between screaming Stratocaster, sweet slack key and jazzy, almost baroque acoustic 12-string.”
- The Honolulu Weekly
But while he is constantly reinventing himself, we don’t mean between albums. We mean between one track and the next on the same album. And Willie’s stylistic restlessness is a gift for audiences. He is the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
This is why Willie’s 1999 holiday release, Willie Kalikimaka, epitomizes the phrase “something for the entire family.” From the gentle Hawaiian elegance of “Away In A Manger” to the rockabilly good fun of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on which his `ukulele leads the way to the solo acoustic version of the too infrequently performed Kui Lee classic “A Song of Christmas,” Willie shows his many sides – the tender, the serious, the playful. His version of “O Holy Night” is a staple of local Hawai`i radio in this season and should be considered among the greatest versions of the song ever recorded anywhere. And who else has the chutzpah and network of famous friends to get none other than Willie Nelson (a part-time Maui resident) to duet with him on ““What Child Is This?”
Few local artists have had the career longevity – and fan base – to produce two or more holiday albums. Only Teresa Bright, Na Leo Pilimehana, and the Brothers Cazimero come to mind. But in 2010 Willie released a second holiday album which is arguably better than the first. If you have the opportunity, I strongly encourage you to check out Willie Wonderland as well.
Willie Kalikimaka is one of my personal favorites – possessing from beginning to end the rare ability to warm my often cold heart and put me a more holiday frame of mind when I find myself suffering from the melancholia that often sets in at this time of year. So even if Willie Kalikimaka hadn’t garnered the 2000 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Christmas Album of the Year, it would still warrant this position on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i. You can hear the entire beautiful album on Rhapsody or download it to your iPhone or iPod from iTunes or Amazon.com.
Next time: #6 on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i…