I. Mihana,
Rust on the Moon
(Mountain Apple, 2001)

Mihana spent almost 25 years as a member of Puamana, a family affair featuring her mother, sister and cousin. In that time, Irmgard 'Aluli and her daughters and niece were guiding lights in Hawaiian music. Sadly, Auntie Irmgard has now passed away, but her heritage and music live on in her daughter.

Mihana's flute-like voice and exquisite compositions now grace this album, her solo debut. Demonstrating deep talent and diverse tastes, she presents a dozen songs in a variety of styles, all perfectly suited to her performance. From the sultry to the sing-along, she is at home with the sounds of jazz, rock, country and more.

Her alto voice adapts well as she rocks on the closing track, "Love," matching the gliding slide guitar for power and flexibility. Yet on "Friend," a sad appreciation, the attack is exchanged for a heartfelt warmth matched by the enveloping textures of acoustic guitar and strings accompaniment. And between these two moving and uplifting tracks, she applies the perfect touch to a variety of songs and themes.

In spite of the style changes, there is a cool continuity to the album; the songs have been placed in excellent order -- there are no jolts other than the in electricity of her performance.

Arrangements are generally kept simple featuring a small ensemble of guitar, bass and drums, occasionally featuring steel, keyboards, strings and synthesizer. This sensitive approach leaves Mihana the constant center of the sound. However, a close listen to the accompanists shows their worth -- there's a lot going on, but it never intrudes. Instead, it just adds to the overall warmth of the recording.

Mihana has a great way of expressing herself. Her lyrics are almost conversational, yet they conjure images, situations and feelings. All but one of the dozen songs were written by her, and many seem to lean on personal experiences -- a song for her daughter, one for her husband, another for a fantasy friend -- she sings of parties but also of more serious sides to life.

The twelfth song, the opener on the album, was composed by her mother and again a distinctive tune matches poignant lyrics -- "there's rust on the moon tonight ... there's no longer a golden light ... rust that enters all my thoughts it seems." A sad song perhaps, but heavenly; written decades earlier, it's almost as though it was destined to be sung by I. Mihana, so well it's suited to her sultry singing.

[ by Jamie O'Brien ]
Rambles: 23 March 2002

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