365 Days, 365 Files: Asylum Street Spankers – If I Were You

I’m no fan of Hawaiian music. I grew up in Hawaii, and I heard it everywhere. It’s the same for my friends who grew up in Texas and dislike country music. Familiarity breeds distress.

At the same time, I do like hearing how Hawaiian music influences artists outside of Hawaii. Asylum Street Spankers are very cognizant of the influence of territorial Hawaiian music on country music. What would country music be today without the Hawaiian steel pedal guitar?

So when the Spankers included on its first album an original Hawaiian song, written in the old territorial style, I was impressed. Here was a group that clearly soaked in the sound of those old records. Are Hawaiian music groups today even versed in that kind of history?

My most recent memory of Hawaiian music is about a decade old, so my perception of the genre is out of date. I just remember mainstream American pop culture exerting an unfortunate influence over the music. Am I supposed to take Keali´i Reichel seriously for covering Bette Midler’s "The Wind Beneath My Wings"?

"If I Were You" is another Spankers original. It could be heard as a country song, but my ears hear Hawaiian music, especially when Christina Marrs delivers the line "I’d bring me flowers and call every hour or two."

Between the Spankers and the post-punk Hawaiian mash-ups of Japanese group Petty Booka, it makes me curious as to whether musicians outside of Hawaii are doing more interesting things with the genre than people who live there.

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