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World Music CD Reviews Australia & Oceania

Sol Hoopii

By Bruce Miller
Published April 24, 2006

King of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar

It’s really too bad vintage Hawaiian music is dismissed with terms like “goofy” or “novelty.” Sol Hoopii, who made the tri-cone National guitar the instrument for Hawaiian players once he began featuring it on his 1920s Columbia recordings, found fame in southern California after stowing himself away on a ship leaving his native land. These Columbia and Brunswick sides from the late ’20s and ’30s showcase his brilliance, revealing him as a six-string master on par with Lonnie Johnson or Eddie Lang in terms of sophistication, virtuosity and variety. Whether on grin-inducing faster numbers or stuttered crooners, Hoopii’s precision attack, swooping slide and rapid staccato blasts helped land him fame in Hollywood as well as on record. A grab bag of caffeinated Hawaiian novelty tunes, jazzy downtempo cuts and the primeval origins of modern country, in the case of his “Hula Blues,” this collection is essential listening.