VETERAN folk music duo Chris Stout and Catriona MacKay will be back on familiar ground this month, as they bring their electrifying latest album to Mareel with Bare Knuckle, writes Alex Garrick Wright.
The duo, whose accolades include the Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo in 2018, have been playing and recording together for an astonishing 20 years.
Speaking to Shetland News ahead of the concert at Mareel on 20 March, Chris said that both he and Catriona were looking forward to being in front of a Shetland audience once again.
“We’re really excited; it’s our first time in Shetland in a long time as a duo,” he said. “Just to be able to come north to Shetland and perform the music that’s done so well [for us] is a privilege.”
Bare Knuckle promises to be something really special. Chris and Catriona’s unique brand of sizzling folk music – neither entirely contemporary nor traditional – has never failed to hit its mark.
Chris is one of Shetland’s highest-regarded musicians; in addition to being a winner of multiple awards (including both the Young Musician of the Year and Young Fiddler of the Year), Chris performs a multitude of styles with a number of groups (including Fiddlers’ Bid and the Chris Stout Quintet), and in 2015 co-composed Hirda, a chamber opera entirely in Shetland dialect.
Catriona is one of Scotland’s leading harpists. A composer as well as a prolific performer she’s no stranger to wild and experimental collaborations. Despite playing together for so long, the duo’s latest album- Bare Knuckle- is their first recorded work together in seven years.
The album, which forms the basis for the upcoming concert, has attracted considerable acclaim – The Herald even referred to it as ‘a landmark release’.
However Chris was hesitant to call it their ‘new’ album: “It’s a year and a half old,” he laughed. “We’ve had plenty of time to try it out before we unleash it on the discerning ears of Shetland.”
As a born-and-bred Shetlander, Chris explained that it’s always a mix of emotions to perform to the local audience.
“It’s always exciting and nerve-wracking,” he said. “I think the trip home when you don’t live there can be a daunting thing.
“We’re so lucky as musicians to be given this rich tradition to build our careers on. When we’re away touring, in Japan or Mozambique or Europe, there’s this thing of ‘Here I am, but I know where I’m from.’”
Chris and Catriona will be joined by another of Shetland’s prolific musician; singer-songwriter Arthur Nicolson. Arthur’s work with bands such as First Foot Soldiers and Spoothawk as well as his solo career, have made him a familiar face in the Shetland music scene.
Chris said that this would be the first time he’s done a ‘formal’ collaboration with Arthur, and as a Shetland musician he places a great deal of importance in of maintaining his links with the local music community.
“Cat and I are big fans of Arthur,” Chris said. “One of the things I enjoy about coming home is that I don’t ever feel disconnected with [the music scene]. You come home and there’s this feeling from friends; ‘Let’s make music.’
“Keeping connected with local music… with the wider music community is massively important. If I ever lost that, I’d feel empty, in a way!”
Tickets for Bare Knuckle are available from Shetland Box Office.