Many would say that Ledward Kaapana is the best living slack key guitarist. Led is my favorite guitarist, period.
That’s saying a lot, considering the many times I’ve traveled to see Buddy Guy since a Chicago trip as a teenager, and considering all of the other great guitarists I’ve seen live (B.B. King, Hendrix, Clapton, Magic Sam, Montoya, …) or even had the privilege to play with (Jimmie Vaughan, Denny Freeman, Billy Gibbons).
I’ve sat at Led’s feet and also watched from afar in large concerts. His stints with the Shoe Band and Garrison Keillor’s comments leave favorable comparison with Chet Atkins. I suspect Led has difficulty suppressing a penchant for rock n’ roll, even (California) surf music. I’ve heard him play in pretty much any style but blues. So the words from Steve Goodman nag me:
My baby came to me this morning.
She said, “I’m kind of confused”.
She said “If me and B.B. King were both drowning,
which one would you choose?”
I said “Whoa, baby”, I said “Whoa, baby”,
I said “Whoa, baby”,
“Babe I Ain’t Heard You Play No Blues“
Update January 24, 2008: ~Hippie Guy says “Ledward is probably the world’s best guitarist and one of the best slack key ‘ukulele players.” He also embeds a nice YouTube of Led at the 2003 ‘ukulele fest.
Update January 27, 2008: There’s an interesting discussion along these lines at http://www.taropatch.net/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=6313.