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Reviews / Musicians carry on into small hours at Cullivoe

Rob Heron & the Teapad Orchestra, pictured on stage at Carnegie Hall, were on stirring form this weekend. Photo: Chris Brown

2013 FOLK festival favourites Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra and up-and-coming harmony duo Lewis and Leigh played a brace of show in Shetland this weekend. The night after a sellout show at Carnegie Hall in Sandwick, Daniel Lawson was among a 90-strong crowd enjoying the “enthralling” line-up in his home village of Cullivoe on Saturday night.

“Dey could easy o’ been a sooth band”, said an onlooker, as five piece support act KANSA left the stage of the Cullivoe Hall.

They certainly left an impression with their free flowing and authentic Americana – which had the audience well warmed up and wanting for more.

The polished playing and immaculate harmonies were similar in style to recent folk festival visitors Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellies – and came together to form a set as good as any ‘sooth band’ would be likely to offer.

It’s always a good sign when the opening act could be the headliners. Look out for the Kansa World Tour, coming soon…

The middle slot of the evening belonged to Lewis and Leigh – a duo that quite literally combined inspirations from both sides of ‘the pond’, and I don’t mean the Bluemull Sound!

Al Lewis, from Wales, and Alva Leigh from Mississippi offered the crowd an irresistible mix of what they call ‘Celticana’ – Celtic folk combined with Americana roots – that really worked in the enclosed environment of a village hall.

Half-Welsh, half-Mississippi singing duo Lewis & Leigh left the crowd "utterly mesmerised".

Both Lewis and Leigh had beautiful voices, joining together frequently in soaring harmonies that left the crowd not lively, but utterly mesmerised.

The mellow guitar picking and gentle synth keyboard were brilliant backgrounds to the vocal main events. “I thought there was more of them?” my friend asked me – obviously confusing this second support act with the big band that was soon to follow at the top of the bill.

By now we had seen two potential headliners step up as support acts – a very good sign indeed! ‘What can I do to take you with me?’ asked Lewis and Leigh, in one of their soaring harmonised choruses.

Nothing more was needed – the audience were all onboard, sitting in silence and utterly enthralled.

When it came to it, the main event couldn’t have been more contrasting. The foot-tapping Americana theme that had run through the evening thus far was mostly dispelled, as actual headliners Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra took to the stage.

Instead we were treated to a set that was much more rooted in swinging country and gypsy jazz. The best thing about it was the innately British manner in which Mr Heron and his Teapad backers conducted themselves.

This Newcastle-based band didn’t conform to typical American country conventions – instead singing songs about the perils of flat tonic water, increasing tax on the nation’s wealthiest, and a particularly amusing number that attributed acts of love to ‘cats’ and ‘chickens’. I’ll leave you to see if you can figure that one out…

The concert itself did finish early – but the bands were all staying on the isle overnight, and were encouraged back into the clubroom to carry on playing in there.

The last few Teapad boys were last seen by this reviewer at 4am – still playing away in a tidy and organised fashion to the remaining audience members. Several were proudly clutching new CDs. 

Daniel Lawson

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