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

Inn Echo.

THE LINE-UP of visiting acts for this year’s Shetland Folk Festival has been revealed – and it promises a varied mix of music.

There will be a smorgasbord of styles on offer, from jazz to country, folk-metal to indie, when the 42nd festival takes place across Shetland between 2 and 5 May.

A showpiece feature of this year’s festival will be a one-off performance of the Celebrating Sail commission by the Hjaltibonhoga Big Band which was first showcased at Lerwick’s Tall Ships event last year.

Supported by the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Traditional Arts Programme, the project has evolved into a touring initiative, providing youth development and lifelong learning opportunities for fiddle players from Shetland and beyond.

Under the leadership of Margaret Robertson, the band will see around 40 Hjaltibonhoga members and guest fiddlers taking to the Clickimin stage on Saturday 4 May, along with a 15-strong backline of esteemed Shetland musicians.

Hjaltibonhoga at the Tall Ships.

With around half of the band’s musicians travelling to Shetland to perform at the festival and from locations as far afield as New Zealand, the performance helps highlight the global resonance of Shetland’s traditional music.

Travelling across the Atlantic to perform in Shetland will be Prince Edward Island based trio Inn Echo – one of the “most unique and captivating groups” to emerge out of Atlantic Canada in recent years.

The folk festival said the group will perform “dazzling arrangements including hint of blues, pop and dub, and definitely a pinch of something different”.

Hailing from the oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, The Hackles are described as a trio of superb musicians from Oregon who made their UK debut last year.

During this tour they “stamped their name as a formidable force on the Americana/indie folk circuit”, the folk festival said.

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Completing the Transatlantic offering are returning act The Fretless, who impressed audiences with their genre bending and progressive sound in 2018.

This year the Juno Award winning quartet returns to Shetland shores with the addition of vocalist Madeleine Roger.

Also making a welcome return to Shetland are Swedish trio Ahlberg, Ek & Roswall (AER) who will be joining forces this year with Ulrika Bodén, whose “exquisite voice will immerse listeners in her country’s rich cultural traditions”.

Norwegian folk-rock band Gangar are perhaps one of the more intriguing names on the line-up, bringing a fresh take on Nordic roots music with “formidable live performances”.

The five-piece ensemble has dug deep into Norway’s extensive folk music archives and given rare traditional tunes a modern arrangement influenced by rock, folk-metal, and jazz improvisation.

Representing Asturias and Andalusia in Spain are the up and coming trio of musicians Deira, who were the first ever non-Scottish act to win Celtic Connections’ prestigious ‘Battle of the Folk Bands’ competition.

Ciarán Ryan Band.

The returning Friel Sisters will be performing alongside festival first- timers The High Seas, “showcasing seven fabulous musicians who will skilfully weave together the colourful strands of Irish music, song and dance into a tapestry of tradition”.

Scotland is also well represented at the 42nd Shetland Folk Festival.

The Edinburgh based Ciarán Ryan Band will be making their debut performance, and festival goers can expect a “high-octane spectacle of ferocious banjo led music and sheer instrumental brilliance”.

Also based in Edinburgh and bringing something a bit different to the festival are the Tenement Jazz Band.

This five piece will take people back to the roots of jazz, ragtime and blues with renditions of early recordings and fresh takes on lesser-known tunes.

Bringing another genre to the festival are Kirsten Adamson and The Tanagers, who will perform their tight harmonies and Americana sound that has impressed audiences throughout the country.

Kirsten is an award winning singer-songwriter and daughter of rock legend Stuart Adamson of Big Country and Skids.

Beth Malcolm. Photo: Magnus Graham

Another Scottish singer-songwriter on the bill is Beth Malcolm – last year’s winner of BBC MG Alba Scots Singer of the Year prize.

She is a folk inspired singer and keyboard player from Perth who will perform alongside guitar player and singer Heather Cartwright.

Local fiddler Ross Couper, who lives south, is also returning with his band.

He is a well-known fiddle virtuoso who has performed at multiple festivals through the years.

Making their debut appearance in Shetland are rising Orcadian stars Haverin, with their indie folk music, a touch of country and a whole lot of harmonies.

Also representing Shetland’s inter-county rivals and completing the visiting artiste line-up are Orkney party band Stereo Lobsters who will be performing at late night scheduled events at the festival club and the Lerwick Legion.

More details of the acts can be found on the festival website. A full programme including all local acts will be announced over the coming weeks.

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

Organisers are particularly keen to encourage young players and audiences to come along and enjoy live performances, sessions and workshops.

Memberships will go on sale on 1 February.

Festival spokesperson Louise Jamieson said she hopes that locals and visitors alike will take up the opportunity enjoy what is on offer.

“Making the festival happen each year is no small task,” she said.

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

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