Koi Au is the sophomore release from the young Makana, who spent his apprentice years learning from the likes of the Pahinuis and Sonny Chillingworth. Here, he showcases a sort of new direction for slack key guitar, as he works through some standard forms (including a slack key instrumental penned originally by Chillingworth), but also mixes in pieces of world music, with some Portuguese fado making an appearance as well as a Chinese zheng. In the opening track, he switches between slack key guitar and an open-tuned (slack key) zheng, providing a Chinese ambience while playing in a Hawaiian style. After a piece in tribute of Bali, he duets with Cyril Pahinui and follows with a solo performance of the Chillingworth instrumental. The centerpiece of the album follows soon, with the lengthy instrumental "Koi" in three movements, based in some part on a Willie K. tune. It's here that Makana shows off his full ability on slack key, running through quick passages and more emotional, slow passages with equal grace. A couple of nice Hawaiian vocal numbers continue the series, with one love song in English following them in turn. Then comes another piece of cultural fusion, as he sings a good Portuguese fado in the aptly titled "Fado" while playing a relatively upbeat slack key accompaniment. After a few more instrumental pieces, the album closes on the slightly moody electric "Far from Home." It's a full spectrum of new interpretations of the old slack key genre that Makana showcases here, and a number of interesting directions are taken. While the classic masters of slack key are outstanding in their own right, this is a worthwhile endeavor on Makana's part, and deserves at least one listen, even by the purists out there.
AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg