Will Crummer: Shoebox Lovesongs (Ode)

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Will Crummer: Naringa Koe
Will Crummer: Shoebox Lovesongs (Ode)

Perhaps because my father-in-law was a member of the short-lived and largely anonymous Sixties band the Samoan Surfriders (one album, a gem, no names on the cover) or maybe because I came to New Zealand from the chillier climes of Scotland, I have always felt a great affection for music of the Pacific.

Probably not helped by my dad being in a danceband in New Zealand -- Roy Reid's Columbians -- which were billed as "versatile" and played popular tunes and "novelty songs" and the Hawaiian music so popular in the Thirties.

Something in Pacific steel guitars, vocal harmonies and ukulele -- I part company with the current ukulele orchestra trend -- conjures up a world of my imagination. And I imagine it is the same for many people, both Pacific and Pakeha in New Zealand/Aotearoa.

So this beautifully presented CD/DVD set -- with a fold-out liner sheet -- had me at Aere Aere Tamariki Turangi (the uplfiting opening song about cheering the village kids when they come home after a victory in a rugby match).

Will Crummer was born on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands (long before it became a high-end getaway hotel resort for Kiwis and Australians) and grew up with local songs and a gramaphone player. And of course radio beaming in hits from the US by Jim Reeves, Elvis and Pat Boone. (Interesting how many people never bothered with the current critical distinction betwen them, and seem the better for it.)

As with so many of his generation he came to New Zealand for work, sang at the Orange Ballroom and Reefcomber in Auckland, recorded many songs on albums and singles for the Viking label, toured the Pacific as a singer, returned to New Zealand, had a family (one of his children is singer Annie Crummer) and . . .

And now there is this album produced by Nick Bollinger and Arthur Baysting, with contributions by the Yandall Sisters, daughter Annie, Don McGlashan (string arrangements) and others.

The sound remains faithful to its origins -- which means party songs adopted from Hawaii but also those which touch on love separated by distance, parents parting and the lovely and lively Toko On'o Anga which is paean to beautiful Rarotonga.

The 50 minute accompanying fly-on-wall filming and interview doco by Costa Botes -- who seems to be documenting so much New Zealand music in situ, whether it be in the studio, the bar or on the road -- fills in the background details about the "Pacific Roy Orbison" as Bollinger says.

That might be pushing it -- they must have been older recordings? -- because Will Cummer doesn't have that vocal reach these days, but as with those old Cubans whom people love so much (Ibrahim Ferrer etc) he has one of those voices which is utterly authentic and communicates from the heart, even when the language might go right past you.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Michael Colonna - Feb 17, 2012

Hi Chris,
I have 3 songs by the Samoan Surf Riders. Must listen to them again. Actually, they are on that CD I sent you.
Have you ever met Mac McKenzie of the NZ Hawaiian Guitar Club?
Went to Real Groovy today to buy Wills CD and they have 1 and it's lost. Bloody crime, I say.
Will go to Marvecks tomorrow.
Great to see you last week. Would have loved to spend a while chin wagging with you but was a bit busy. Next time, I say.

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