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Reviews / Impeccable afternoon of Americana Sounds

The Fretless featuring Madeleine Roger at the Legion on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Dave Donaldson

NORTH American roots music has long been a mainstay of Shetland Folk Festival and the wider local scene.

Saturday afternoon saw aficionados young and old gather in the Lerwick Legion for an Americana sounds concert dedicated to that most wide-ranging of musical umbrellas.

It featured turns from returning Canadian string quartet The Fretless, local singer-songwriter Freda Leask and her band, and Portland harmony trio The Hackles.

The Fretless – a collection of violins, viola and cellists – had previously thrilled festival-goers in 2018 and were invited back this year with friend and singer Madeleine Roger in tow, reeling off a choice selection of classy instrumentals and throwing in a set-closing old-timey number much to the audience’s glee.

The collaboration is a logical next step in The Fretless’ evolution since teaming up with 10 guest vocalists for 2021’s ‘Open House’. The group’s intricate and tasteful arrangements seamlessly complemented Roger’s melodic style – part folk singer, part indie chanteuse – and considerable song writing chops.

The immensely likeable trio The Hackles. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Freda, meanwhile, was flanked by three of Shetland’s most talented musicians – David Boyter on guitar, Seth Travins on double bass and Tim Matthew on fiddle – to deliver a fluid take on Americana across six finely honed originals, the pick of the bunch being Old Man of Madison.

Closing act The Hackles, following an amusingly protracted edition of the festival’s raffle tradition with multiple young helpers, spoke of “burning the candle at both ends” in attempting to enjoy the festival’s small hours while touring with a six-month-old baby in tow.

The immensely likeable trio’s performance certainly didn’t suffer as they glided through a mixture of great new songs and cuts from recent records including the instantly memorable Peaches and ‘Damn the word’ to round off an impeccable Americana afternoon.

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