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Roots acts to return

Highly rated Scottish singer songwriter Ross Wilson, aka Blue Rose Code, is coming back to Shetland with a five-piece backing band in mid April.

TWO roots music acts who have previously impressed audiences in Shetland are returning to the isles armed with new material next month.

Blue Rose Code and Lewis & Leigh will play at Lerwick’s Mareel on Thursday 14 April before heading to the Aith Hall a day later.

The former, aka Ross Wilson, previously performed in the isles last year as a solo act, but this time the Scottish singer-songwriter is taking with him a full five-piece backing band.

He will be showcasing songs from And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing, his upcoming new album partly penned while Wilson enjoyed a songwriting residency in Culswick on Shetland’s west side.

Up-and-coming Americana duo Lewis & Leigh performing at Carnegie Hall, Sandwick last year.

The brace of gigs will mark a songwriting homecoming of sorts for Wilson – whose sound dips into folk, jazz and Americana – after his Culswick stint.

“I made friendships during my previous trips and I’m looking forward to seeing friendly faces, but most of all I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with the land and the light,” he said.

“It’s fitting to bring these songs back to the isles, gifted to me by my time on those roads and along those shores. I am looking forward to bringing them home.

“It was between Culswick and where I live now, in rural Dorset, that I composed a great deal of the new album. Without overstating the case, I feel changed by my visits to Shetland, by the culture and the land. It informed a lot of my thinking around the inspiration for the record.”

He said Shetland had informed a lot of his thinking about his third album, and he was “also very taken by stories of Hugh McDiarmid’s time here and the stories of Shetland’s struggle to keep its unique culture vital and relevant”.

Blue Rose Code’s rapturously-received album launch show at Celtic Connections in Glasgow back in January was “my best, to date”, Wilson said, and he is relishing the prospect of returning with the “wonderful players” and “beautiful souls” of his backing band.

Half-Welsh, half-Missisippi duo Lewis & Leigh, meanwhile, are set to release their debut album later this year.

The pair made the trip north last year to impress Shetland with succulent harmonies during a pair of concerts with Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra.

Al Lewis and Alva Leigh, who cite influences such as Whiskeytown, Gillian Welch and The Band, said they were taken by Shetland’s hospitality during their maiden visit.

“We really enjoyed our last trip there back in September, even though we didn’t get our picture with a pony. That’s goal for this trip,” they said.

“We had a great time at Carnegie Hall – such a lovely audience and room to play in. Our next night in Yell was very fun and a little bit raucous as the name of the island suggests!

Everyone in the community was warm and friendly, which is such a treat when you’re on tour.”

Neil Riddell of promoter Ragged Wood said the gigs would be a “great showcase of original songs and beautiful singing”.