Review: The Chair close foy with gusto

Maya Youssef and her trio strutting their stuff at the closing night's foy in Mareel on Sunday night. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News.

THERE was a celebratory feeling in Lerwick on Sunday night as the 37th Shetland Folk Festival came to its formal end with its network of all-encompassing foy gigs around the town.

Perhaps it was because the locals had managed to survive the previous three booze-fuelled nights without injury or impairment, although it was more likely a toast to another successful festival.

Mareel’s sold-out offering kicked off with Estonia’s Trad.Attack!, who ploughed through a trio of raucous, rocky tunes complete with a couple of tub-thumping drum solos, before Ten Strings and a Goat Skin followed with an assured, acoustic-driven set.

The Canadian threesome, apparently the youngest visiting band at the festival, closed with the engrossing Shoot The Moon before Ireland’s New Road brought more trad vibes to the stage – and even chucked in a tap-dance cameo too.

Michelle Burke brought "amusing, old-time tales to the table". Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News.

The Goodbye Girls, who hailed their visit to Shetland as an “unbelievable experience”, followed with classy, bluegrass-influenced tunes as guitarist and vocalist Molly Tuttle provided an engaging presence.

The Langan Band bagged some of the biggest cheers of the night with some energetic Balkan blasts, but it was the following Maya Youssef who perhaps stole the show.

The Syrian’s at times mind-boggling use of the traditional 78-stringed kanun brought a whole new aura to Mareel, and the trio’s sound often dipped toes into darker depths.

Michelle Burke Band catapulted things back into spree mode as she brought amusing, old-time tales to the table, while the Shetland-rooted Fiddlers’ Bid did the isles proud as they took over the stage with an intoxicating cocktail of instrumental flurry and toe-tapping tunes.

Then there was the impressive Veronica and the Red Wine Serenaders from Italy, with the aforementioned Veronica Sbergia ruling the roost with domineering vocals, while the Scott Wood Band brought their big, rock gig show to the stage, bagpipes ’n’ all.

Lonely Heartstring Band singer George Clements. Photo: Shetland News/Chris Cope.

Trio Dhoore were an altogether more subtle affair, with the Belgian brothers lilting with trad groove, and they were overshadowed somewhat by top-drawer US duo The Lowest Pair as they huddled around one microphone to offer heart-wrenching melodies underneath an earthy banjo and guitar foundation.

Folk supergroup Ímar got the crowd giddy with electric trad bombast, while Boston collective Lonely Heartstring Band were on fine form with polished bluegrass hues.

Things were running over half an hour behind schedule, but there was no way the raffle was going to get cut, with The Chair’s banjo player Brian Cromarty providing a wonderfully deadpan delivery in lilting Orcadian tongue as he picked the winning tickets.

His band were tasked with closing the foy and they did so with gusto, with the eight-piece snake-charming the seated crowd onto their feet and towards the stage.

Even for those dance-phobic types it was a fine chance to stretch the legs after a mammoth evening which lasted nearly six hours. But when the music is this good, time just doesn’t seem to matter.

Chris Cope