"Weird Al" Yankovic guitarist Jim Kimo West pays homage to Hawaii with sublime slack-key instrumentals


Sign in to view read count
As the longtime guitarist for Grammy-winning satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic, Jim Kimo West has heard a lifetime of good-natured laughter. However, West's own discography is light years apart from Yankovic's inventive and often hilarious pop-music parodies. In fact, West's latest solo record, Na Lani O Maui-Maui Skies, is even miles away from the mainland as he pays homage to the awe-inspiring beauty of Hawaii.

But West's decision to beam the spotlight on Hawaii is not for superficial reasons; this isn't some tourist's postcard although his surface affection for the tropical utopia is clearly evident. There is a deeper context here, one that is rooted in West's musical style of choice. West is a lifelong student of the fingerstyle technique of slack-key guitar, which actually originated in Hawaii. In the late 19th century, Mexican cowboys left guitars to Hawaiian natives along with some pieces of instruction; once they were gone, those rookie guitarists began experimenting with the instrument, creating a new genre of music in the process.

West's knowledge of slack-key guitar is vividly expressed in both his keen performances of covers as well as his own dynamite songwriting. West's version of Sonny Cunha's “Hula Blues" is what you'd expect a Hawaiian-themed track to sound like, brimming with a sunny, playful groove. “Maui Skies," a West original, is as evocative as its title promises; the liquid flow of West's guitar achieves that perfect balance of caressing the ears while awakening the mind to pictures of blankets of clouds hovering over a bed of blue ocean.

That West is able to produce music as sublime and picturesque as this while contributing to Yankovic's funny send-ups reveals a versatile and impeccable artist who awaits discovery.

Visit Website | Purchase

Post a comment



Jazz News


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.