Musicians from 10 nations make for diverse line-up at 32nd Shetland Folk Festival

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The organisers of the award-winning Shetland Folk Festival have issued the provisional line-up for the 2012 event, this year spanning more than 10 different nationalities and a diverse array of musical genres.

A few faces from folk festivals gone by will make a return for the festival’s 32nd year, notably including Cape Breton multi-instrumentalist JP Cormier. He is to be joined on stage by The Elliot Brothers, and the organisers say the trio will “wow audiences with their cornucopia of hot club talent and fancy finger work”.

Making her fourth festival appearance will be internationally-renowned US banjo virtuoso Alison Brown. Also crossing the pond is five-piece Sprag Session, which features award-winning fiddler Colin Grant.

From further south will travel Richmond-based The Hot Seats, described as a “bubbling fountain of virtuosic insanity” moving seamlessly between bluegrass, ragtime, old-time, jub band and Klezmer, injecting “humour and sharp-witted commentary along the way”.

Scotland is also well represented with four particularly energetic bands on the bill. For one night only, the 12-piece Treacherous Orchestra will take to the stage. Their “sophisticated and explosive” musical arrangements have earned them a “fearsome reputation as an incendiary live act”.

Six-piece outfit Manran, who have rocketed to the top of the Scottish music scene in the past year with their powerful folk rock, promise to combine Gaelic and English songs with funk and reggae grooves.

Also new as a touring act and coming from diametrically opposed ends of the UK are accomplished Scotland-based fiddle and guitar duo Ross Couper (originally from Shetland) and Tom Oakes, who hails from Devon.

Completing the Scottish contingent will be Lori Watson and Rule of Three. Lori’s musical roots lie firmly in the Scottish borders, and she is described as a “beautiful” singer and fiddler whose interpretation of Scots and worldwide traditions are “undeniably resonant”.

KAN, a collaboration including frontmen from two of the UK folk scene’s most revered bands, sees Brian Finnegan of Flook and Aidan O’Rourke from Lau joining forces with England-based Ian Stephenson on guitar and Jim Goodwin on percussion. The four-piece are said to be already creating a “supersonic buzz” in folk circles.

Two Scandinavian musicians, Perry Stanback and Steffan Sorensen, will accompany Australian alternative country/blues singer-songwriter Rory Ellis for his return having last performed at the festival in 2008.

Centred around Rory’s distinctive “deep, lusty and rumbling” voice, the newly-formed trio came together as a by-product of performing and partying together in Shetland four years ago – a “further demonstration of how Shetland’s special annual event is responsible for forging many new musical (and occasionally more intimate) partnerships”, the organisers say.

The most exotic offering, featuring the traditional sound of the most remote equatorial African villages, will be London-based Kasai Masai. Their sound is rooted in the healing power of driving percussion and singing, combined with “majestic” Congolese guitar and jazz saxophone. Written in Swahili, Lingala and Kimongo, their lyrics reflect the cultural diversity of a region where more than 400 languages are still spoken.

Completing the provisional line-up and bringing an added international dimension to the 32nd festival will be KV Express, a trio centred on the band’s founder Sophie Cavez, one of Belgium’s most prolific accordion players. Together they create a fresh sound combining folk, jazz and rock with world styles from the southern parts of the European and American continents.

For younger festival-goers, multiple award-winning children’s entertainers Allansmagic will come up from Aberdeen.

Committee member Mhari Pottinger said most visiting musicians would be in Shetland for the festival’s four-day duration and would play at different venues throughout the isles alongside some fantastic local acts. The festival will conclude with the traditional foy events on Sunday 6th May, where most visiting musicians will play a trio of separate 15-minute slots in three different venues.

• This year’s festival takes place from 3rd-6th May, with advance membership on sale from 27th January until 2nd March. For more information, including biographies and sound samples of the visiting acts, visit


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