REVIEWS

Praise for Foreign Shore!

Hanz Araki is definitely a master of his art. In Foreign Shore, his eleventh release, he has recorded eleven songs and tunes from the traditions of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, America and New Zealand. This collection of music dives into the heart of a musical tradition that travelled the world as Araki’s Irish and Japanese forbearers did!

On Foreign Shore the sound Hanz creates is colourful and varied and somehow creates pictures of the lyrics. He plays flutes and whistles on the album and occasionally doubling and tripling the melody and harmonies. The melody almost tells you what’s happening in the song.

Foreign Shore offers the listener a first–class compilation of classic instrumental and narrative folk; from Valentine O’Hara to a wonderful rendition of The Herring Song/The Boats of Killaloe to The Chicago/The Maids of Mt Kisko/The Virginia. Foreign Shore captivates you completely whenever you listen to it. Although widely known for his exquisite musicianship, Araki also possesses a haunting voice which was born to tell tales. Listening to My Jolly Roving Tar and Davey Lowston, considered by many to be one of New Zealand’s first folk songs, the action in the story dates to a real incident that occurred in Jackson Bay in Fiordland in 1810. History or no, you’ll be under Araki’s vocal spell.

Foreign Shore is one outstanding album.

— Grainne McCool, Irish Music Magazine

IMM

 

Bless you Hanz Araki. Bless you for reminding me that great trad music can be pure and elegant without needing to “break the mold.” On his new album, Foreign Shore, Hanz makes a case for the beauty of the old melodies and old songs in a way only he can. Of Irish and Japanese descent, Hanz is the perfect embodiment of West Coast Irish trad in the US. He’s as easily informed by his Japanese heritage (he’s a sixth generation shakuhachi master from a rich lineage) as he is by Irish punk kings The Pogues, Tom Waits, or the Northwest old-time scene. Living in Portland, Oregon, he’s exposed to more great, diverse roots music than most of us can imagine and he’s basically always been at the forefront of Irish trad in the Northwest. As long as I’ve known him, I’ve looked up to his playing on the Irish flute and his singing as an Irish vocalist. Both of these talents of his are meticulous, refined, created in the best taste. Like a fine chef, Hanz works with simple ingredients and transforms them into something beautiful and unexpected. On Foreign Shore, he focuses on some of his favorite tunes drawn from late night sessions with great Northwestern players or his friends in the larger international world of Irish trad like Kevin Crawford, or old touchstone recordings. His description of a trio of “chestnut” tunes (The Chicago/The Maids of Mt Cisco/The Virginia) is endearing: “Three old session-warhorses that I felt deserved another lap.” The songs are drawn mostly from the tradition and Hanz has a special love for songs of the sailers on the sea or highway rogues (heck, who can blame him!). Previous albums from Hanz have featured songs taken from interesting sources (I think Tom Waits was a key to one of his earlier songs), but here he seems content to delve back into his large store of traditional songs. Throughout, everything about this album is tasteful and heartfelt. It’s a real ode to music that Hanz has loved for a very very long time. It’s so nice to have artists like Hanz Araki who love to live in the tradition and perform in celebration of those who’ve come before.

— Hearth Music, Devon Leger

Hanz Araki is a mean flute player from Seattle, now living in Portland, Oregon. He is the sixth generation of his family to be a grand master of the shakuhachi (a Japanese flute) and although he honed his musical abilities in this genre, it is in the musical traditions of his Irish mother that Hanz has carved a career. Following hot on the heels of a series of releases with singer and fiddler Kathryn Claire, Foreign Shore sees Hanz taking the lead on a selection of songs and tune sets, mainly from the Irish tradition.

The tunes here are mostly familiar Irish session fare and are played expertly by Hanz and his chosen accompanists – Cary Novotny on guitar provides a solid, steady backing for Hanz’s warm, flowing flute and deserves much credit for the overall sound.

Hanz has that enviable talent of being able to pick great songs that suit his voice well. He has learned them from reliable sources such as Martin Carthy and Frank Harte and gleaned a few from his contemporaries as well. The sleeve notes show he has researched different versions and chosen those that make sense to him. In particular, Hanz has a skill for running songs and tunes together in seamless arrangements giving a well-rounded and well thought through feel to the album. The Herring Song flows nicely into The Boats Of Killaloe and a Quebecois-style Crockery Ware (complete with podorythmie) blends well with The Sligo Reel. There is a good version of Davey Lowston and an achingly beautiful rendition of Jolly Roving Tar, the arrangements of both being simple and clean, with beautiful harmony vocals from Colleen Raney.

This is a well produced and engaging album from an excellent musician who knows exactly what he is doing. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

— The Living Tradition, Fiona Heywood

Hanz Araki is a master of his art – of that there is no doubt. His stunning musicianship and mind-spinning delivery of traditional tunes is a pure exhilaration for the ears. Combining an unprecedented feel for the Japanese shakuhachi flute with an unerring ability as an interpreter of Celtic music, Araki has carved out a rock-solid status. Fashioned through a heritage of Irish and Japanese parental influence, education, and personal dedication, his musical influences combine the disciplines and traditions of both cultures to create the virtuoso we hear today.

From a wide collection of albums that include the iconic ‘Wind and Rain’ and Little Fires’ through a series of seasonally-themed Celtic music albums with the fiddle, guitar and voice of Kathryn Claire, Araki has built a standing of considerable and much-deserved respect. His latest album ‘Foreign Shore’ will only ensure the resilience of that reputation.

‘Foreign Shore’ offers a first-rate mix of classic instrumental and narrative folk, from ‘Valentine O’Hara’ a version of the Irish ‘soldier-turned-highwayman’ theme, through a fine rendition of ‘The Herring Song/ The Boats Of Killaloe’ to ‘The Chicago/ The Maids of Mt Kisko/ The Virginia’. This album captivates entirely wherever you listen, whether it’s the sparkling trio ‘The Guns Of The Magnificent Seven/ Ah, Surely!/ Gorman’s’ or an excellent version of ‘Crockery Ware/ The Sligo Reel’ complete with a stunning performance of podorythmie – a Québécois music tradition of percussive foot-tapping to fashion musical accompaniment. Known as an outstanding musician Araki is also recognised as possessing one of those heartfelt voices born to relate doleful tales, one listen to ‘My Jolly Roving Tar’ or ‘Davey Lowston’ and you’ll understand. All things considered, ‘Foreign Shore’ is outstanding.

Beginning-to-end this album, which releases in October on Little Sea Records, will hold you in a spell cast by a maestro. Playing on ‘Foreign Shore’ are Hanz Araki (flutes, whistles, vocals, bodhran) Cary Novotny (guitars) Eddie Parente (strings) and Lisa Ornstein (podorythmie) with Colleen Raney, Mike Cody and Bob Soper (backing vocals).

— Tim Carroll, Folkwords

Today marks the release date of flutist Hanz Araki’s new record titled Foreign Shore, on Little Sea Records. Recorded at Secret Society in Portland Oregon, and produced by Hanz himself, Foreign Shore is perhaps the most mature and satisfying of his many albums. Some of Portland’s finest trad players support him here, notably Cary Novotny on guitar, with Colleen Raney, Lisa Ornstein, and Eddie Parente, among others.

Fans of modern pure-drop traditional Irish music in the vein of Lunasa or Altan will love this record. Every tune or song found here sounds as smooth as a baby’s behind (without the odor). Hanz Araki has a voice like summertime, and his playing on flute and whistle is absolutely flawless. His family heritage may play a role: his background is part Irish and part Japanese. In fact he comes from a direct line of several generations of shakuhachi flute players, and he is trained in the tradition.

No wonder that when we listen, this album sounds natural and true, like it was meant to be.

— Stuart Mason, Fiddlefreak


Reviews for Previous Releases

“A stunning bit of perfection and an unprecedented accomplishment in Irish music. We are overwhelmed by their talent and their creativity.”
— Liveireland.com

“Wonderfully entertaining and beautifully put together…each of these albums is richly textured, beautifully performed traditional music. Hanz is an outstanding singer and traditional flute player. Outstanding… it’s a good question which we like more, the playing or singing. Either way, terrific!”
— Chicago Irish/American Times

“…a gentle uplifting and definite Celtic flavour… immensely talented musician from the northwest corner of America.”
— Joe Giltrap, Irish Post

“Araki’s distinctive voice, while definitely in the folk tradition, carries a lot of emotion; Throughout, the instrumental work is exceptional – light (not lightweight) and airy.”
— Jamie O’Brien, The Irish Edition

“The music here harkens back to a time when the function of Celtic music was more than just a backdrop for the sale of Guinness and Jameson. The music used to remind people that the dark, cold days of winter would not last forever, and it filled them with warmth and hope.”
— Stuart Mason, Fiddlefreak

“It really is a delightful album.The musicianship is superb …achingly beautiful; a real delight.”
— Peter Crowley, Fatea

“The whole musical experience is attractively harmonious and pleasing.”
— David Kidman, NetRythms

“…splendid, absolutely fabulous”
— BBC Wales, Celtic Heartbeat

“Quality stuff!! Excellent and thanks!”
— Dave Eyre, Radio Sheffield

“Their outstanding musical expertise, blending of contrasting influences and finely-balanced, integrated style make this album truly ‘one to add to the collection’. Part of a 4-CD selection covering their take on the four seasons – winter, spring, summer and autumn – this album bursts with the assurance of the returning sun, the restoration of light after the winter dark and the inherent promise of springtime magic.”
— Tim Carroll, Folkwords


Testimonials

“One of the highlights of the Austin Celtic Festival was the Hanz Araki Band. We are excited to bring them back this year for an encore performance. They made a lasting impression on our audience with their perfect mix of songs and instrumentals. In addition, Hanz and company are consummate professionals that make the coordination process a breeze.”
— Donnelle Mckaskle, Director of the Austin Celtic Festival and President of the Celtic Cultural Center of Texas

“Hanz and company were absolutely brilliant. The music was of the highest caliber, and all were consummate professionals. Hanz’s musicianship is second to none, making the most complicated tunes appear effortless. I highly recommend these fine musicians”
— Chris Brinn, Music Coordinator, The Maine Celtic Celebration

“He is a captivating presence both as a musician and as a singer, a prince amongst performers in traditional music”
— Sami Melilo, promoter/publicist

“His music transports me to some distant place and holds me there for an entire performance. Hanz Araki is a modern-day master of the Irish flute and he incorporates subtle elements into his playing style so that it never grows stale, no matter how many times I hear it.”
— Norm Johnson, Seattle-area concert promoter

“I’ve heard Hanz go from playing Irish flute, whistle and shakuhachi to back-up singing and leading his own group. He’s been great in all the groups he’s been a part of, but I’ve always known that he was a super star. Hearing him on that stage in the twilight was magical. Hanz sang a slow song with his comforting, storytelling voice… the outdoor standing room audience was mesmerized.”
— Byron Au Yong, composer

Awards

Juno Award Winner (with The Paperboys, “Molinos”), Folk/Roots Album, 1998
KLCC, Best of 2006
Liveireland, New Artist of the Year, 2006
KBCS, Best of 2012
Liveireland Vocal/Instrumental Group of the Year, 2012]

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