Friday, July 24, 2009

John Cruz - Acoustic Soul (1996)

Even though John Cruz only released his second CD, One of These Days, in 2007, eleven years after his debut, Acoustic Soul, he has long been a highly regarded singer-songwriter in his native state of Hawaii. Acoustic Soul sold 100,000 copies on the islands upon its release.

The CD is aptly named because the only electric instrument appearing anywhere on it is the bass that accompanies the band leader's acoustic lead guitar. Musically, the disc is a spirited affair that is loaded with Cruz's bluesy R & B vocals. His slightly raspy voice is perfectly suited for the songs showcased here.

If you're not a fan of Hawaiian music don't be put off. This disc isn't traditional music with harmonies and a ukulele. The opening track, "Island Style," has become a Hawaiian standard and is played by bands all over the fiftieth state. "Only Cruz’s regional hit and "Kawailehua'a'alakahonua," sung in his native tongue, offer us any indication about his heritage. While the musician freely embraces his roots he clearly has other musical avenues he wants to travel.

The proof that Cruz is not just some local musician is everywhere. He has written with Trey Anastasio, and their song, "A Case of Ice and Snow," appeared on Anastasio's solo CD, Bar 17. Jack Johnson has covered "Island Style" and plays the song in concert. He has also appeared at Bonnaroo, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and New York's Carnegie Hall. One of These Days was recorded in Jackson Browne’s home studio and just this past March Cruz played fourteen shows at SXSW in Austin, TX.

Cruz apprenticed for a decade on the East Coast before Acoustic Soul was recorded, mostly in Boston, Martha's Vineyard, and Greenwich Village. He is playing a series of concerts on schooner cruises this summer on the Vineyard.

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