Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Sweet Hollywaiians: Ticklin' The Strings

The Sweet Hollywaiians: De stringbandtraditie herleeft in Japan ( Nederlands) The Sweet Hollywaiians: Ticklin' The Strings (English)

Hans Koert

The Sweet Hollywaiians have probably the best feel for this 20's music of any string band working today. They manage the rare feat of sounding relaxed even when their playing is hot, are top notch musician with tasteful arrangements and a full, rich, warm sound. Plus, they have a nice gamut of tunes, from King Nawahi to Gionvanni Vicari to Bobby Leecan. See them live, if you can, for an unforgettable experience. If you can't buy their Cds. ( Terry Zwigoff, San Francisco) ( liner notes Ticklin' The Strings). These wise words by Terry Zwigoff are the first lines to find when you open the new album of the Japanese string band, The Sweet Hollywaiians, who released its new album Ticklin' The Strings a few weeks ago - a call to listen to the music, live if possible and to get yourself a copy of this album. Well - this message comes, in my opinion, too late in the day, as you've already obtained a copy when you read it, but ... , never mind, I fully agree, although I miss the words great fun. Terry Zwigoff is a well known American film maker, who produced the film Crumb, a multi-award winning documentary about Robert Crumb, maybe better known as R. Crumb: cartoonist-artist, record collector and leader of a string band called the Cheap Suit Serenaders. When Terry met Robert for the first time they learned that they shared a fascination for American roots music. Terry joined the Cheap Suit Serenaders and is to be heard on albums like Singing in the Bathtub and Chasin' Rainbows.
Playing this album by the Sweet Hollywaiians is really great fun. Love to share with you a film fragment, a bit unfocused to give it a 1920s patina, the tune Louisville Special, originally recorded by Earl McDonald and his Original Louisville Jug Band March 1927 for Columbia. The jug, used as a cheap bass instrument here, originally played by Earl McDonald himself, is, in this version, played by Tiny Mookie, leader of The Hot Society, and also responsible for the great cover design.

Isn't that great? This rather unknown tune, which belongs to the only known recording session by this, in the 1920s very popular, Original Louisville Jug Band, is seldom heard.
Standing: Kohichi Tsutsumishita and Takashi Nakayama. Sitting: Nobumasa Takada and Tomotaka Matsui.
The four regular members of the Sweet Hollywaiians are Tomotaka Matsui, Nobumasa Takada, Takashi Nakayama and Kohichi Tsutsumishita all playing several string instruments. Two members of the Cheap Suit Serenaders, Robert Armstrong and Tony Marcus, play on a tune titled Nostalgia composed by the late great mandolin player Giovanni Vicari, who had Terry Zwigoff as one of his pupils. It learns that this world of "string bands" is a small one. On the record you'll find 15 tracks ( and a bonus track (!)), with tunes like the Joe Venuti-Eddie Lang composition Doin' Things; the title tune Ticklin' The Strings ( Tocando Las Cuerdas), a tune recorded in New York January 1930 by Bennie Nawahi, the King of the Uke, with his Hawaiians and Ten Tiny Toes - One Baby Nose (That's All I’m Lining For) recorded by Sol Hoopii in October 1933. On the album also an own composition, composed by Matsui and Takada: Oh! Caroline.
f.l.t.r.: Tomotaka Matsui - Robert Armstrong - Kohichi Tsutsumishita en Tony Marcus.
Love to finish this review with a fragment of the recordings by the band of the tune My Girl from the South Sea Isles, another Bennie Nawahi recording from the late 1920s, now with his Hawaiian Beach Combers.

It won't be a surprise that I love to recommend you this album - a great document with seldom heard music by a band that knows how it sounded in the 1920s. It's a shame that they are only to be heard in Japan ( or at concerts at the US west coast with bands like Janet Klein and het Parlor Boys) and never in this part of the world. Wouldn't it be great if they could be scheduled for the 3rd Belgian Ukulele festival in Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) May 2011 or the Dutch Breda Jazz Festival? I'm sure they will tear the place apart.

The album is, like its two previous ones Hula Girl and 'O Surdato 'Nnammurato, to be obtained at the CDBaby site or at eBay

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks to the Sweet Hollywaiians this string band music tradition has a great future ahead. It's sheer joy to be listening to their music, they are all topnoch musicians and have caught the spirit of the original stringband recordings and carry on the torch in a guiding way. - Great review of their latest cd, Hans - thanks for sharing the inserted videos and info with the readers of your blog. I also recommend everybody to go and buy their cds, don't miss the chance of real entertainment!

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Mike W. said...


Great stuff, indeed! The "Sweet Holly Wians" material is outstanding. Thanks for bringing this group to my (our at DJML) attention. I plan to purchase this CD.

I also enjoyed the Les Paul multitrack material. I knew about it before, of course, but it was interesting to see how he and Mary Ford put these tracks together.

Thanks Again. Keep up your great work!

Mike W

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to forget the CD MAILE SWING (2008) by Yumi Ishikawa And Her Sweet Hollywaiians!

1:28 PM  
Blogger Michael McCarthy said...

I had the pleasure to see and hear the Sweet Hollywaiians earlier this year in California, and became an instant fan. I made it to 3 of their shows. They are great live, even more charming than on CD or video. They will be in Europe in January! Check out

8:17 AM  

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