The provisional line-up for this year’s Shetland Folk Festival includes 13 visiting bands with five high-class acts from across the Atlantic.
The organisers of the 33rd festival, who have also launched a new website, promise a “four-day spree of brilliant folk music, sessions and sleep deprivation” and an event as “internationally diverse as its predecessors”.
After nine years, the internationally renowned Canadian fiddler, singer, songwriter and stepdancer April Verch is returning to the isles with her band showcasing the old-time music of Canada’s Ottawa Valley mixed with ancient Appalachian ballads.
From further to the north, Nova Scotia has representation in the form of Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter and banjo player Old Man Luedecke as well as Coìg, an exciting line-up of five solo acts from Cape Breton.
Whereas Old Man Luedecke transports listeners back to the era of folk troubadours like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger with his claw hammer-banjo picking and pounding foot keeping rhythm, Coìg embrace their Celtic Roots and are ambassadors for the famous Cape Breton fiddle style with both fired up contemporary and traditional arrangements.
Storied and steeped in the best of American music, North Carolina singer songwriter Woody Pines and his four-piece band will provide a blend of rural and urban stringband, country blues, ragtime and jug band music.
Completing the North American contingent is one of the brightest young talents to emerge in Cajun, Creole and Zydeco (Louisiana French) music over the last decade, Cedric Watson. A four-time Grammy-nominated fiddler, singer, accordionist and songwriter, he is a young man with great potential.
Ireland is also well represented with three acts on the line-up. Niamh Ní Charra is a multiple award winner on both fiddle and concertina, who toured for eight years as a soloist with Riverdance before embarking on extensive tours as a solo artiste and with her own band as well as with the likes of The Chieftains and Carlos Núñez.
From County Down, Northern Ireland, Kieran Goss is also making a return trip – 23 years after his last festival performance. Long hailed as one of Ireland’s leading songwriters and performers, Goss’s music has won him fans across the globe.
Completing the Irish contingent is The Rambling Boys of Pleasure consisting of well-known Irish musicians Bernard O’Neill, Gino Lupari, Alan Burke, David Munnelly and Sean Regan who all have a shared love of exploring their music and looking for new directions in which to take it.
Continuing with an Irish link, the Long Notes who perform captivating arrangements of Irish, Scottish, French-Canadian, Galician, Quebecois and old-time tunes as well as original compositions in their arrangements.
Having met through the session scene of Camden Town, London, they have forged an excellent reputation over the past six years with appearances at numerous festivals including Celtic Connections, Glastonbury, Wimorne and Towersey.
Also making their debut Shetland appearance are Skerryvore, formed on the island of Tiree. They are now set for the big time, having already performed in more than 20 countries as well as releasing four albums since 2005 and collecting an array of awards.
Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra are one of the hardest-working bands on the UK roots music circuit and have built a sizeable fan base following numerous tours and big festival appearances. The six-piece outfit mixes western swing, gypsy jazz, hokum blues, ragtime, cajun and roots-of-country.
Also from the UK but with a distinctly American bluegrass sound is the Leon Hunt n-Tet, whose album release last year plays homage to Leon’s musical hero Earl Scruggs.
Completing the provisional visiting artiste line-up and bringing a truly international feel to the festival are Son Yambu. Performing red hot rhythms, straight from the streets of Santiago de Cuba, they play authentic Cuban son, the essential Afro-Cuban sound that originated in the streets of eastern Cuba and gave rise to modern salsa.
Appearing in Shetland as a five piece, the Son Yambu members all have a lifetime of experience playing Latin music, both as recording artistes and in live performances around the world.
As in previous years, most visiting musicians will be in Shetland for the festival’s duration, playing at different venues throughout the isles alongside local acts.
The event will conclude with the “festival foy” events on Sunday 5th May where most visiting musicians will play three separate 15-minute slots in three different venues. Foy tickets continue to be the fastest-selling ticket of the weekend, with virtually all being consumed by advance members in 2012.
Advance festival membership will go on sale during February. For more information, including all the visiting acts’ biographies with sound samples, visit the new website at www.shetlandfolkfestival.com.