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Arts / Plenty on offer as folk festival announces visiting line-up

Foghorn Stringband.

MUSIC fans can rejoice – the line-up of visiting artists for the next Shetland Folk Festival has been revealed.

A number of new acts alongside some familiar faces will grace Shetland stages from 27 April this year, with performers representing up to 10 different nations.

Americana legends Foghorn Stringband will make their first appearance in Shetland since 2010. The four-piece from Portland, Oregon are regarded as one of the finest old-time acts in the west coast of the USA.

They are not the only North American acts to be coming back – Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell will also make a return to the isles.

Perhaps best known to Scottish audiences for his work in Transatlantic Sessions and collaborations with the likes of Joan Baez, Rhiannon Giddens and Eric Clapton, he will perform in Shetland with his daughter, Amelia Powell.

Together they play the music of their Appalachian and Cajun heritage, with original and traditional songs.

Meanwhile Shane Cook & The Woodchippers will travel across the Atlantic from Canada with multiple awards behind them.

Johanna Juhola Trio.

A Canadian and US national fiddle champion, Cook is a multi-instrumentalist who has distinguished himself as a master of the Canadian old-time fiddle tradition.

He appeared at the festival in 2015 to great acclaim but his multi-talented band are new to the event.

Completing the quartet of North American bands is the Eli West Trio, who will make their festival debut with a mix of instrumental bluegrass playing and songs.

While the band have not played in their current set-up before in Shetland, American and Canadian band members Eli West (guitar and vocals) and Patrick M’Gonigle (fiddle) are no strangers to the festival. Forrest Marowitz completes the band on upright bass.

Award-winning pedigree also comes in the shape of exciting new trad act, The Trials of Cato. Another festival debutant this year, the Welsh/English indie threesome won a Radio 2 Folk Award for their debut album Hide and Hair in 2018 and are receiving glowing reviews for their mix of subtle melodies, Welsh language songs and stomping rhythms on the newly released Gog Magog.

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Another dynamic English talent arriving for the first time is soul singer, Kyla Brox who will arrive with her band. An award-winning singer-songwriter, Brox’s raw talent has seen her described as “the finest female blues singer of her generation” with material from her latest album Pain and Glory winning multiple awards in 2019 with a mixture of R’n’B, pop and soul influences.

Kyla Brox.

As in previous years, 2023 will see organisers continue to offer eclectic and diverse acts to Shetland audiences. From Southern Africa there is representation from Harare who celebrate their Zimbabwean heritage with rich- toned marimba and mbira among other instruments.

They feature the outstanding marimbist Kuda Matimba, who was a member of Zimbabwe’s legendary Bhundu Boys – a groundbreaking force in the African music industry.

Meanwhile folk fans have been told to expect experimental fusion and much crossing of genres from Finland’s Johanna Juhola Trio.

Another new face to the isles, virtuoso accordionist and composer Juhola enjoys influences ranging from Argentinian tango, avant garde jazz and traditional Finnish folk tunes.

Another Nordic connection arrives with the Swedish Grammy Award-winning Lena Jonsson Trio. Jonsson is regarded as one of the most influential fiddle players in Scandinavia today with a style unique in combining her deep knowledge of traditional Swedish folk music and the youthful sounds of rock, pop, jazz, American old-time and bluegrass.

She previously played at the festival herself in 2017 with the Goodbye Girls, but this will be the first time Shetland gets to hear her own band.

This year the festival also focuses on new Scottish talent with three of the most recent BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year winners featuring alongside festival debutants – while the 2023 winner will be invited.

This will culminate in a showcase gig presented by Hands up for Trad founder and legendary composer and concertina player, Simon Thoumire.

Collaborations and educational workshops will form part of this focus funded by Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.

These acts include the dynamic Neo-folk outfit Project Smok, featuring piper Ali Levack (Trad Award winner 2020) piper, guitarist Pablo Lafuente and Ewan Baird on bodhran.

Project Smok.

Glasgow based supergroup TRIP will also make their first of their namesake to the isles. Last year’s debut album, A Drop of Neptune, features a blend of self-penned tunes and songs from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man; reflecting the different Celtic nations the members hail from.

To top it off there will also be an appearance from Jedburgh fiddle player and 2022 Trad Award winner, Eryn Rae. Having been inspired by the Shetland style and with Catriona MacDonald as a former teacher, she has lit up the trad scene in the last 12 months with her energetic and classy playing.

Fans of uplifting and mellow songwriting will enjoy the words and voice of Amy Papiransky. Hailing from a trad song background in Keith, she came to prominence with her contemporary and jazz influenced debut album Read Me Write in 2019 and a Young Trad final appearance before that.

Completing the Scots representation with a twist and to top off the line-up are the current Trad Awards best newcomers Valtos – a ‘Scottish-Electronic’ group comprised of Isle of Skye natives Martyn MacDonald and Daniel Docherty.

A full programme including all local acts will be announced over the coming weeks. As usual, over a hundred local performers will play over the four days with acts such as Bryan Gear and Violet Tulloch, Laeverick, Kansa, Haltadans, Skelburn and Vair confirmed at this stage alongside some new acts looking to make their debut festival erformances.

While the festival club will be based again at Islesburgh Community Centre, concerts will happen across the isles as in previous years.

The four-day music shindig kicks off on Thursday 27 April and organisers are keen to encourage young players and audiences to come along and enjoy live musical events again.

Customers will face no increase in ticket or membership prices for 2023 with an adapted pricing structure for concessions to promote families and young musicians back as both audience members and performers. Memberships will go on sale on 1 February.

Festival spokesperson Louise Johnson hopes the festival can strike a balance between providing the “ultimate weekend of fun and good music while being affordable to families”.

“We are so appreciative of our local and global audiences who continue to support us by buying memberships and tickets well in advance, as well as hundreds of volunteers and local partners and sponsors,” she said.

“We are not taking anything for granted, and hope that our festival-goers and helpers are still in a position to be involved as before.

“This year for us is about getting folk back into that diverse social scene, discovering great music and showcasing our own talent to the wider world.

“One of the reasons we are focusing on young Scottish musicians is for our young folk to get inspired and to see the pathway they too can follow. We are very grateful to Creative Scotland for supporting this part of our programme.”

More information about the event and this year’s acts is available online.

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