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Reviews / Energetic tenderness and flawless harmonies

Siobhan Miller 'makes traditional folk music sound incredibly fresh '. All photos: Zdenka Mlynarikova

THE THIRD night of this year’s Shetland Folk Festival brought an eclectic international mix of acts to the Clickimin stage. Featuring some of the festival’s headline acts, the musicianship on show was outstanding, writes Zdenka Mlynarikova.

While each performance was very different in their own way they were all wonderfully linked at the same time. Although this was a seated concert, you could feel the mood for dancing in the air. And there’s nothing better than seeing musicians participating in each other’s sets as the festival progresses and new friendships blossom.

A lively introduction was provided by the hugely talented Shetland four-piece band Vair, back at the festival after their huge success six years ago. Their music takes inspiration from traditional Scottish, Irish folk and Americana music but there is also an undeniable Shetland influence coming through.

The Brother Brothers, twins Adam (fiddle) and David (guitar and cello) Moss, brought a special bluegrass feel to the night and impressed the audience with their flawless harmonies.

Coming from as far away as the United States, their own unique style and understanding of each other’s vocal and instrumental abilities, together with thoughtful song writing, proved once again that siblings can create some of the best musical duos. They filled the room beautifully with just their vocals, guitar, fiddle and cello.

Next on stage the Canadian Juno Award winning string quartet The Fretless, whose innovative approach towards folk pushes the meaning of ‘traditional’ to a whole new level.

At the end of their set, they invited fellow Canadian singer-songwriter William Prince on stage, who is also one of the visiting acts. This collaboration resulted in one of the highlights of the night, with Prince’s powerful voice contrasting the energetic tenderness of the strings.

The only female act of the night was Siobhan Miller, one of the best Scottish vocalists. She makes traditional folk music sound incredibly fresh without taking away any of its authenticity.

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Together with her band she performed both original songs and covers. The Fretless joined Siobhan and her band for the last tune Ramblin’ Rover, a fantastic song full of energy.

Siobhan’s original songs have a slight melancholia to them, but she sings with such ease and optimism that it’s an absolute joy to listen to her and to watch her perform. She had a visible connection with the other members of her band and their four-part harmonies were just breathtaking.

Baltic Crossing, the band consisting of award winning musicians from Finland, Denmark and England, take their inspiration from the traditional music of their countries.

By adding humour, lots of energy and respect towards each other’s cultural background, it’s little surprise that the band was invited back again after playing at the folk festival six years ago.

Northumbrian pipes were an interesting instrumental addition, and together with the double bass and mandolin, they produced a unique, authentic sound. Their set also included an emotional song in memory of the band’s guitarist’s granny.

Apart from all the wonderful music, it was great to hear how all the musicians were praising their hosts for making them feel very welcome in the isles. Their jokes and stories relating to their time in Shetland created a closeness with the audience and further emphasised the atmosphere of the night.

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