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Despite long song title, album heads short list for pop charts

By John Berger

LAST UPDATED: 9:23 p.m. HST, Nov 8, 2011

'Legs of Our Own'

The Throwdowns
(The Throwdowns)

Long anticipated but worth the wait, the Throwdowns live up to expectations as the group -- finally! -- follows "Don't Slow Down," its debut extended-play release of two years ago, with the band's first full-length album. The quartet provides continuity by recycling two songs from the EP for the new 13-song offering. The Throwdowns also may have set the local record for the year's longest song title: "If You & I Were the Last Two on Earth, What Would You Do?"

Vocalist Erin Smith is again the first point of reference. Her voice has a presence, an appeal, that many others out there don't have. It doesn't take long, however, to get drawn into the group's instrumental arrangements. There is a lot of interesting work going on here.

The lyrics also deserve close attention. "Head's up Cupid, I've been thinking," Smith announces in a song titled "Follow the Sun." She continues on to say there is no need for any more poison arrows. The lyrics of "On the Radio" make that song memorable as well: The hook phrase, "Heard it on the radio," catches the ear, but so does Smith's ironic confession, "Broken hearts, they happen all the time -- just not mine."

"Kihei Town Remix" stands out once again as a catchy snapshot of life in contemporary Hawaii. The vivid lyric images in "Stolen Car," a favorite from the EP recycled here, still resonate.

The voice of Maui reggae artist Marty Dread echoes through "Stay HI" with interesting results as a second voice on that one song, but Dread doesn't dilute the polished mainstream pop-rock presentation that should take the Throwdowns to national pop charts.

» "Shake Your Bones"

'Warehouse Blues'

Willie K
(Maui Tribe)

Willie K can play or sing almost anything an American audience might ask for. On this album he and some friends play the blues. Some of the 17 original compositions are mainstream blues, others are closer to rock or '60s soul, but with Willie K leading the group on guitar and vocals, they all work one way or another.

One of the most traditional numbers is "Heart Aching Blues." If someone should ask if Willie K really has what it takes to play the blues like he means it, play this one first.

"Too Bad," the second track of the album, is a swinging, up-tempo gem. A woman didn't recognize that she could have had Willie K. Now he's on top of the world without her, and as for her, well, too bad! It'll make you smile just to hear him sing it.

"Howling at the Moon" has a strong traditional foundation; Willie K sounds like he's having a great time singing it. For "Lonely Man" he switches to somber cocktail lounge pop; Sam Ahia Sr. (guitar) and an unidentified pianist are the key players in a beautiful arrangement.

"World Singing the Blues," a protest song about mankind's continuing assault on the environment, is also memorable. Whatever the relative balance of blues, rock and '60 soul music from one song to the next, Willie K never fails to connect.

» "Waimaka Helelei"

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