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Features / Roots music double bill in Sandwick & Cullivoe

Eclectic Newcastle-based group Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra are heading back to Shetland next month.

A DOUBLE bill featuring folk festival favourites Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra and hotly-tipped harmony singing duo Lewis & Leigh are to play a brace of country hall shows in Shetland in September.

The six-piece band fronted by Heron, a “crazy fool for country music and a full time dandy cowboy”, went down a storm at the festival back in 2013 with their eclectic blend of western swing, blues, gypsy jazz and country.

Lewis & Leigh, meanwhile, are a half-Welsh, half-Missisippi duo who bonded over a shared love of Whiskeytown, Gillian Welch and The Band.

Offering a unique blend of Celtic folk and Americana, Al Lewis and Alva Leigh released their debut EP ‘Night Drives’ in October and have since played radio sessions for Dermot O’Leary on BBC Radio 2 and Ricky Ross on BBC Radio Scotland.

Both bands will perform at the Carnegie Hall in Sandwick on Friday 25 September and in Yell’s Cullivoe Hall on Saturday 26 September.

Heron’s band are made up of guitarist Ben Fitzgerald, mandolin player Tom Cronin, accordionist Colin Nicholson, double bass player Ted Harbot and drummer Paul Archibald.

The Newcastle-based group have thousands of touring miles under their belts and have earned themselves a sizeable fanbase in the UK, Europe and beyond.

Influences include early twentieth century American music with the addition of some razor-sharp solos, great arrangements and original songs – harking back to a golden age while staying perfectly modern.

Heron’s songs are said to be full of character, satire and good old-fashioned hollerin’. Debut album ‘Money Isn’t Everything’ won a host of rave reviews in 2012 and last year’s ‘Talk About the Weather’ also garnered notable radio play and more rave reviews.

Making their maiden trip to the isles will be hotly-tipped half-Welsh, half-Mississippi harmony duo Lewis and Leigh.

Meeting through their Nashville connections, Lewis & Leigh’s roots stretch from the American deep south all the way across to the Welsh coast.

Alva Leigh moved to London from Tennessee in 2012 and joined forces with Welsh singer-songwriter Al Lewis two summers ago.

They began writing songs together early last year and in a matter of week, a string of country-tinged folk songs tumbled out to form a life of their own.

Their ‘Night Drives’ EP features a guest appearance from the legendary BJ Cole (who has worked with Elton John and Elvis Costello) on pedal steel.

Lewis & Leigh also earned plaudits for their live cover version of American alt country favourites Wilco’s song ‘Say You Miss Me’.

So far in 2015 they have performed at Celtic Connections, Country 2 Country at the O2 Arena and sell-out shows in Cardiff, London and Glasgow.

Neil Riddell of promoters Ragged Wood said he hoped audiences would be captivated by the two acts’ contrasting styles.

“Lewis & Leigh offer some really beautiful harmonies and songs,” he said, “and lots of people absolutely loved Rob Heron and the Teapads when they played here two years ago.

“It’s two acts with very different sounds, but they share a passion for performing original material informed by, but certainly not constrained by, the historical roots of American music.”