Rob Yamanoha
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Rob Yamanoha

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"Island Sounds"


"Better" by Rob Yamanoha; Red Moon Entertainment

# Genre: Island contemporary, pop.

# Distinguishing notes: Rob Yamanoha is an emerging Big Island singer-composer with something to say and something to share: a poetic soul. He wrote nine of the 10 tracks here and his sound and style encompass blues, pop and soul, circa 1970s and '80s, though the retro echoes fit the here-and-now catalog.

"Stars" is about the yearning that comes with searching and reaching for goals; "Don't Be Afraid" gets into the blues mode and deals with facing challenges; "Sailin' Around" has that nostalgic spirit of yesteryear with dance-ready tempos; "Waialua Sky" is a remake of the Brian Robertshaw-Bonnie Gearheart classic originally popularized by The Krush and has emerged as a much-played radio hit on the Big Island, with Yamanoha's vocal imprint favoring a subtle blues posture that shapes the oldie into a "new" song.

# Our take: Slightly retro in execution but solidly relevant for today's contemporary ears. - Honolulu Advertiser


"A little bit rock, a little bit slack-key"

If you’re jonesing for a Kalapana/Country Comfort kind of musical fix, complete with original light acoustic soulful songwriting and vocals, Rob Yamanoha’s debut solo CD Better is just what the doctor ordered. With uncomplicated yet stylish arrangements and insightful lyrics, Yamanoha delivers a musical sketch that is intelligent and interesting and yes, better than most.

After seven years as the singer-songwriter-lead guitarist with the ever popular funky eastside party band Moemoea, Yamanoha established himself as a mostly solo artist and sometimes lead man of the Rob Yamanoha Band performing regularly on the Big Island club scene.

Better includes a selection of 10 tunes, recorded at Red Moon Recording Studios in Hilo; all songs (except ‘Wailua Sky’) are written, arranged, engineered and produced by Yamanoha. Although he wears many musical caps, he did have a little help from a few talented friends. Guitarist Spencer Ahuna (son of Darlene and JJ Ahuna) is a steady member of his band and contributed his own rock infused flavor to the mix. Formerly with Plethora and Bruddah Kuz, Ahuna holds his own. Popular drummers Bo Wade and Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing (of ‘Ai Pohaku) drop in on percussion. Gonzo and Yamanoha share bass line kuleana.

‘Sugar Cane’ captures the gusty rain laden trade winds, swelling surf and changes in the light and sky that herald wintertime in Hawai’i. A wistful visual snap shot of the silver tasseled pua ko sugar cane flowers signal the closure of one year and the onset of another for a young man raised amidst the swaying fields of cane and plantation towns of yesterday.

‘Beautiful,’ released earlier as a single, remains an ode to a fathers’ initial feelings of tenderness and wonder at the birth of his baby girl. With a nod to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ Yamanaoha’s writing is solid and fresh.

‘Don’t be Afraid,’ pushes words of encouragement to a brother who suffers from personal demons. ‘Sailing Around’ is upbeat and danceable while holding tight to the hope of finding love once more on the horizon.

Other standouts are ‘Stars,’ which poses the questions that all artists face in pursuing a dream of fame and fortune amidst a sea of distractions. Local audiences will appreciate the soft rock easy groove, catchy phrasing and positive message put forth in response.

‘Wailua Sky,’ was written by Bonnie Gearheart and Brian Robertshaw for the 1970s group The Fabulous Krush. For Yamanoha, who was born and bred on the North Shore, the tune was a comfortable fit. He does it justice with a few signature vocal nuances thrown into the arrangement.

Yamanoha’s voice is deep and expressive, but sometimes lyrics are lost in muffled delivery. Still, this debut is notable with the promise of paving the way for more creativity on the local music landscape.

For audiences hungry for something that not only sounds and feels good but also truly reflects the issues of life and love, come a little closer. Yamanoha has something that is indeed better. - Honolulu Weekly


"Gettin' Better"

Imagine music from a local boy with fresh contemporary riffs that breaks the Jawaiian mold in a funky, bluesy, nostalgic way. Enter Rob Yamanoha and a return to the days of real songwriting -- the days of C&K and Kalapana, when craftsmanship ruled and the homogenized island sound was unheard of.

Better is the vehicle Yamanoha uses to enliven Hawai`i's music scene; it's his debut CD -- a collection of nine original compositions --influenced by John Legend, Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Maroon 5 -- along with "Waialua Sky" his styling of that classic Krush song. In Better the listener finds a mainstream musicality that alters island music in a strange and beautiful way infusing it with a vibe that is familiar and comforting yet refreshingly unique.

You may have seen posters advertising Yamanoha playing acoustic, or jamming with his band at various locations such as Emerald Orchid, Kope Kope and Nichols. On a good day, you may have heard him crooning at the Bayfront bandstand, or entertaining at a private gig like the weddings, parties, and other social events he frequents. Some may also know him from his years with Moemoe`a.

The reason for the original Moemoe`a breakup? "We signed a really bad record deal," said Yamanoha. "Two months after the CD came out, two guys quit." Yamanoha followed suit after a lengthy discovery process on his own about record deals, labels and leadership. "To this day we still don't know who owns our music."

Having survived this hard-knock-filled rite of passage, Yamanoha is grateful. "Every musician needs to know what the biz is about. You gotta educate yourself . . ."

Since the breakup, a wiser Yamanoha is staging an utterly bewitching acoustic solo act and has a solid thing going with his own band. He also started the Red Moon Entertainment label and his own recording studio. The Rob Yamanoha Band includes Spence Ahuna, 22, on electric guitar, Josh Conneran, 25, on percussive instruments and Mati Keating, 34, on bass.

"I like 'em cause they listen," said Yamanoha with a good-natured laugh. His philosophy relies heavily on the need for clear leadership. "I tell my guys, "I have the final decision. All you gotta do is show up to gigs and practice on time and I'll do everything else."

Ahuna has been with Yamanoha since the formation of the band and has co-written some impressive guitar parts for Yamanoha's songs. "He works really hard at his craft . . . he just keeps getting better and better." While Ahuna comes from a standout musical lineage -- Darlene and J.J. -- Spence's talent and creative mind are earning him a reputation that stands alone.

In addition to such strong musical back-up, Yamanoha's "right hand man" Scott Nitura, of Angel7Studio graphic arts, has been instrumental in promoting and fostering the artist's image. Then there's a couple of silent investors and his wife/business partner Karla. According to Yamanoha, fans have her to thank for his final decision to pursue music. His family strongly supports his career. Oftentimes they are in the audience, or selling his CD's.

Those lucky enough to get their hands on the five-song EP Yamanoha put out last year will notice the unforgettable "Valentine" is missing from the full length CD. After five tries at re-arranging the song to get it to flow better with the other tracks, he realized "it was too good to compromise" but assures fans "it will be in the next album."

On Better, Yamanoha goes old school with his cover of Krush's "Waialua Sky" and infuses 70s funk in his original song "Sailin' Around." If you like pop, "Lessons" will have you hitting repeat.

All his songs are autobiographical, as in, "I write what I know." "Beautiful" was written for his two daughters Pi`ilani, 8, and Kehaunani, 2. Yamanoha also has a son named Shawn, 10, and another baby on the way.

Two years in the making, Better is very chill . . . perfect for a beach cruise, barbecue with friends, or that trip to the other side; keep it on replay. - Big Island Weekly


"Former Moemoea Guitarist Rob Yamanoha releases first solo CD"

Rob Yamanoha has undergone a musical metamorphosis in the past couple of years. Now playing as both a solo singer/songwriter and as leader of the Rob Yamanoha Band, his music is more instospective and lyrically driven than what he played when he was lead guitarist of the party-'til-you-drop band Moemoea.

Yamanoha will officially release his first solo CD, titled "Better," on Sept. 25, although advance copies of the disc are available at Kope Kope Espresso Cafe and Pacific Music Connection, as well as at his live performances.

Yamanoha's band will play at 7 p.m. Saturday in the entertainment tent at the Hilo Jaycees 57th Annual Hawaii County Fair on the grounds of the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. He will also play at the after-party of the KWXX Ho'olaule'a at the Emerald Orchid in downtown Hilo on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 9:30 p.m. to closing.

All but one of the tracks on the CD are originals. The cover is "Waialua Sky," the 1970s homage by the Krush to the sleepy former sugar plantation village on the North Shore of Oahu.

"Last year, I appeared on Tiny Tadani's radio show in Honolulu; when I played that song on the show he loved my version and thought if I recorded it the song would become a local hit," Yamanoha explained.

"I was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, and so that song has always been dear to my heart."

KAPA is playing "Waialua Sky," and Yamanoha said that KWXX told him they have plans to add the song to their rotation. He's hoping that local radio will also give his original material a shot.

"I'm always thinking of hooks and melodies when I write," Yamanoha said. "What I hope is that people will start hearing local music in a different way. Back in the '70s the local music of C&K and Kalapana were a reflection of their times, putting island flavor into the mainstream pop music of the time. Nowadays we got guys like John Cruz, Justin, Inner Session, and many others who've become just that -- island counterparts to their mainland contemporaries. And I think a lot of people are craving that."

Yamanoha plays much of the lead guitar on the CD, but some of the guitar work is done by Spencer Ahuna, son of Hawaiian musicians Darlene and J.J. Ahuna. Ahuna, who brought his own rock sensibilities to the fore while playing with Plethora and Bruddah Kuz, is now lead guitarist in Yamanoha's band.

"Spencer's been playing with me for years ... he's one of the brightest young guitarists I know," Yamanoha said. "When it came to drums, I went through a series of drummers before I had Bo Wade track five of the songs and Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing track two. ... Finding the right bass lines were tough, as I ended up playing the bass myself on three of the songs. Gonzo came in and tracked the bass for 'Beautiful.' When Mati Keating came in to record, it was an easy fit because we already had an established relationship from Moemoea. So now the Rob Yamanoha Band is Spencer on lead guitar, Mati on bass -- and I recently picked up a really talented young drummer named Josh Conneran from Minnesota. I play electric guitar and Wurlitzer with the band."

Like an increasing number of artists, Yamanoha is self-produced, published and recorded. He decided that was the way to go after what he considers an unfavorable deal with Quiet Storm Records, which released Moemoea's CD.

"After going through such disheartening record deal, I studied the inner workings of the biz just to know exactly how we got such a bum deal," he said. " ... I tell all musicians who are starting out the same thing: 'Educate yourself, because no one else will do it for you.' So I figure I came out better for it, because I walked away with an unofficial degree in music business."

While the record deal was a bummer, Yamanoha said that being with Moemoea, which was an electrifying live band, had its upside, as well.

"Being the lead guitarist and co-songwriter in Moemoea gave me a lot of stage experience, and eventually helped me break out of my shell," he noted. " ... The beauty of Moemoea was that each of us brought a different point of view and genre. That's what made it so cool -- it was just good, fun, collaborative and unconventional music."

Yamanoha said that his wife, Karla, who is expecting their fourth child, and their three children -- Shawn, 10, Pi'ilani, 8, and Kehaunani, 2 -- are his inspiration and his biggest fans.

"They've all been excited and nervous at the same time, because they want other people to love what they love," he said. "They've been to many of my performances, and have been really supportive. The coolest is part is that they know all the songs and all the words."

Yamanoha will videotape an appearance for the OC16-TV show "Living Local with the Baraquios" during the first weekend in October -- check TV listings for date and time -- and is also in the planning stages for a CD release party in November and an interisland tour to promote the CD throughout the winter and spring.
- Hawaii Tribune-Herald


Discography

2006 - Love & Life (EP) - "Beautiful", "Stars (acoustic)", "Sister", "Pick Up the Pieces", "Call My Name (acoustic)"

2007 - Better (LP) - "Stars", "Better", "Lessons", "Sugar Cane", "Beautiful", "Waialua Sky", "Don't Be Afraid", "Live & Learn", "Sailin' Around", "Call My Name"

2009 - Play (EP) - "Heaven", " Fascinating", "Autumn Leaves (acoustic)", "Play (acoustic)", "Will You Call", "Settling Down (acoustic)

Photos

Bio

In the summer of 2008, I toured the Northwest region of the United States for the first time. There was certainly something special about bringing my laid-back island style of music to people who’ve never experienced Hawaii. I was very aware that I looked different from other singer-songwriters, and my sincere yet subdued delivery of songs undoubtedly caught people’s attention; in any case it definitely had something to do with distinctiveness. What didn’t occur to me prior to taking my music outside of Hawaii was the fact that even though I considered myself a singer-songwriter with influences of soul, smooth jazz, soft rock and the blues, the music is still filtered through island music and my experiences of island life, where every day is a beach day and people live aloha.

I’ve been performing in the Hawaiian Islands as a solo guitarist singer-songwriter for over five years, touring each major island extensively, as well as playing my regular venues on the East side of the Big Island. I draw from many influences, including John Mayer, Tuck and Patti, Jack Johnson, Ray Lamontagne, John Legend and Van Morrison, but I also have affinity for 70’s soft rock and Motown (most notably Stevie Wonder and George Benson). In 2006 I released my first EP titled “Love & Life”, and in 2007 I produced and released my debut CD called “Better”, which was greeted with great reviews and had a number one hit song on Big Island radio stations. That album earned a Hawaii Music Award in the Adult Contemporary category in 2008, when I began booking extensive tours on the West Coast from California to Oregon and Washington State. Most recently I released another EP called “Play” in September 2009 and hit the West Coast hard, playing three states, four cities, in four weeks.

My sophomore CD is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2010, and I am planning another tour on the West Coast for the summer. As with most singer-songwriters, every song I pen is very personal, drawing from my own experiences as well as others. Living in Hawaii with my wife and four children inspires me, but it’s the touring that facilitates my creativity and awakens my soul. Through my music I hope to show the world what it looks like through the eyes of aloha.