Josephine County will play old-time music, bluegrass and Irish tunes Feb. 3 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. (Katie Way)

Josephine County will play old-time music, bluegrass and Irish tunes Feb. 3 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. (Katie Way)

Maine-based folkies to play sweet, sad songs in Snohomish

Josephine County’s musical roots can be traced to Appalachia and Ireland.

A band of contemporary folk artists from Maine, whose musical roots can be traced to Appalachia and Ireland, are coming to Snohomish this weekend.

Josephine County will play old-time music, bluegrass and traditional Irish music Feb. 3 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater.

“Folk music accompanies a lot of different sounds, lots of different influences,” said Hanz Araki, singer and flutist with the band. “The sound has a fairly wide breadth. It can go from pretty melodic to uptempo.”

Josephine County includes Araki, Erica Brown, Matt Shipman and Colleen Raney, who were successful musicians before they joined forces at a weekly Irish music event in the summer of 2017 in Portland, Maine.

“We had a nice big, full house,” said Raney, 42, who sings and plays the bodhran, an Irish frame drum. “I think we went out after for a celebratory cocktail, looked at ourselves and said, ‘Maybe we should book one more show.’ Then it was just went on from there.”

They spent the next year rearranging contemporary songs with a wide range of instruments, including bouzouki (a Greek guitar), banjo, flute, guitar and fiddle. They named themselves after a county in southern Oregon (Raney and Araki lived for 10 years in Portland).

Josephine County’s debut album, “East to the West,” was released in December. Their covers include “Down Where the Drunkards Roll” by British folk-rock artists Richard and Linda Thompson, “Adieu False Heart” by Arthur Smith (which was also covered by Grammy Award singer Linda Ronstadt) and “Carolina Pines” by Kate Wolf.

Raney said their music touches on heartbreak, loss and immigration.

“We naturally gravitated toward sad songs, but I don’t think we did that on purpose,” Raney said. “We pick songs when they have interesting melodies and interesting lyrics.”

The University of Washington graduate, whose brother who lives in Sultan, recorded her first traditional Irish album, “Linnet,” produced by Araki, in 2008. Her singing has been praised by several music magazines, including Irish Music Magazine and Hearth Music, the former of which said in 2013 that she was among the best in the genre.

Araki, 48, also has roots in Irish music as an award-winning singer and flutist. His 30-year career has included 10 albums, a stint as a flutist with Canadian folk music band The Paperboys, and international tours in Ireland, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

Brown, 35, won numerous fiddle contests in New England and Canada while growing up in Maine and primarily plays French Canadian and bluegrass music. Her biggest accomplishments include opening for country music legend Dwight Yoakam and Grammy-winning bluegrass acts Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Shipman, 42, plays bluegrass, country and Irish music on guitar, bouzouki and banjo. He also performs as a duo with his wife, Brown. The couple are also longtime music educators, teaching acoustic and traditional at their studio in Portland, Maine.

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

If you go

Josephine County, a traditional folk band from Maine, plays at 4 p.m. Feb. 3 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater, 1211 Fourth St., Snohomish. Tickets are $20. Call 360-568-9412. More at www.thumbnailtheater.org.

Want to know more about Josephine County? Visit the band’s official website at www.josephinecountyband.com.

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