Best breakthrough acts join welcome returners for eighth blues festival

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The eighth Shetland Blues Festival takes place this year on the weekend of 9th to 11th September and features some welcome return acts plus two of the best breakthrough acts on the UK blues scene this year.

Guitar wizard Gerry Jablonski will be no stranger to a Shetland audience, having played with Mojo Pep in the 1990s. Now he returns with The Electric Band who have released two albums to much critical acclaim over the past couple of years.

Fronted by Gerry on guitar and vocals with harmonica from Peter Narojczyk, bassist Grigor Leslie and drummer Dave Innes, they are carving a swathe through the festival circuit in the UK this year and looking to break into Europe next year. They will be bringing their brand of blues rock to Shetland before heading out on a major UK tour.

Gerry Jablonski and The Electric Band will be appearing on the Friday night at the Bigton Hall, the first time the festival has used this hall. Also appearing at Bigton will be Cherry Lee Mewis who returns for her second festival.

Since Cherry was last at the festival she has released her second CD Southbound Train to wide critical acclaim. She has also become a fixture on the British blues festival scene and has made a trip to Memphis in the US to appear at the Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Concert in West Point, Mississippi.

Cherry has been nominated in the female vocals category in this year British Blues Awards. This is a welcome return as she has always promoted the Shetland Blues Festival in her interviews with the press and on radio over the past three years.

Also making a welcome return is Al Hughes who appeared at the first festival and has also been a regular visitor to Shetland over the past eight years. He has released five solo albums alongside two CDs of Robert Johnson songs. Rooted in the blues and soul tradition like so many Scottish singers, he writes from his own perspective on topics which are very much of today.

His influences can be clearly seen, but make no mistake, this music is modern, relevant and gathering praise from a growing number of well respected figures on the British music scene. Al’s music conjures up a variety of moods, from forceful and raucous to gentle and wistful. Indeed one reviewer called his slide playing “eerily atmospheric”.

Ramon Goose will be performing with his trio on the Saturday and Sunday and are not to be missed. Ramon is one of the most innovative blues artists on the music scene today. He is currently promoting Uptown, a rocking blues album mixing the influences of T-Bone Walker and Johnny “Guitar” Watson and fusing elements of blues, jazz, funk and R&B in an exciting mix.

Ramon has always pushed the boundaries of blues music, either with the band Nublues which mixed blues and hip hop or exploring the origins of the blues by travelling to Dakar to play with West African musicians which saw the release of Mansana Blues with kora player Diabel Cissokho.

Lewis Hamilton is a name spreading fast around the music scene in the UK, winning a positive review in Blues Matters magazine, radio interviews and feature articles in several newspapers. Lew’s dad Nick is on bass and Ian (Santa) Wallace on drums. With over 100 gigs in the diary since starting this line-up last September, they are one of the country’s hardest working blues/rock bands.

With the release of their debut album Gambling Machine, Lewis has set a benchmark for young blues guitar players throughout the UK for the depth and range of styles that he plays on this outstanding release.

The Grey Goose are a new and refreshing blues band from the West Midlands. Formed in 2008 by singer, songwriter and guitarist Frankie Williams the band are fast developing a reputation in Birmingham as the freshest and most original blues band around. They cut their teeth on the Black Country pub circuit and boast having played in most of the region’s pub venues and are now starting to establish themselves on the blues circuit.

Earl Grey and the Loose Leaves have been creeping out regularly, fresh from the Edinburgh underground, since 2008, and are purveyors of sweaty, sincere, blues-soaked choons, rootsy vibes and howlin’ tones.

Weaving together strands of broken dustbowl ballads, of hell-for-leather bass grinding snare smashing commitment, and the odd reflexive, politically aware foray, the Loose Leaves are always keen to have people come dance with them, and to help apply a little musical lotion to the week’s sores and pains.

Sleepy Eyes Nelson plays his own style of country blues guitar. After playing around pubs, clubs and festivals for years, and having his music played on various radio stations both at home and abroad, Sleepy Eyes was discovered by the American record label Devil’s Ruin Records where he has so far released three albums. He is regarded as one of the best dark roots songwriters in Scotland is gaining a big international following.

The festival will close with a concert on the Sunday night in the Lerwick Legion which is billed as “A Celebration of Robert Johnson and the Music of the Mississippi Delta”. This year is the centenary of the birth of Robert Johnson and the gig will feature all the visiting acts during the night.

Tickets are on sale through the festival programme and again will feature a weekend ticket for all three nights in the Lerwick Legion.

Jimmy Carlyle

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