“Ten years, 10 long years …” It could easily be part of a blues song; there was after all a progressive blues band called Ten Years After.
But more importantly how is the Shetland Blues Festival looking in this it’s 10th year?
Once “an infant of a festival” it is now firmly established on Shetland’s musical calendar and nationally as Britain’s most northerly blues festival.
The blues has a considerable following in the isles, right from the progressive electric end of the genre to the more rootsie acoustic delivery from the performers. Like all festival attendees from “down the road a piece”, they find not only the music but Shetland, the place, a big draw. After all, half the fun can be getting here.
The cathartic sound of the blues can this year found during the weekend beginning the 13th September. It promises to be a riveting weekend, according to Shetland’s Mr Blues, the laconic Jimmy Carlisle (a man who loves the festival so much he got the logo tattooed to his arm last year). He is chief mover and shaker of the proceedings and earlier this week he had the welcome news that the”early birds” discount scheme was being extended right up to the first note of the festival. Punters in Shetland still hold out for the last minute before committing themselves to their weekend “wows”. If other years are anything to go it will be a last minute rush.
Mareel will host the main gigs with free satellite booze and blues performances at Da Wheel, the Lounge and the Marlex. Out of town you get your shot of rhythm and blues at Unst, Vidlin and the Mid Brae Inn. “Be sure to turn out when the blues is about” is Jimmy’s message.
So what’s on offer this year at this bluesy bash that is the 10th Shetland Blues Festival?
Jimmy says there’s a return to a more traditional slant to the “sounds” with lots of “blow out” harmonica and slide guitar being highlighted. There are eight visiting acts.
Giles Robson and the Dirty Aces highlight the blues harp or mouth organ on a solid base of electric blues, as does harpist Steve Luvy with Andres Roots and the singularly named Peeter Piik on bass.
Paul Garner of the Paul Garner Band (formerly of the Cadillac Kings and Joshua Blue) has been described as the “go-to” guitarist in London.
Dave Arcari is a swish slide guitarist who even plays a cigar box as well. He was here in 2007 and has a amazing style which incorporates thrash country, punk and rockabilly with a lot of blues.
Arcari is joined by Finland’s Juuso Haapasalo on bass and Honey Aaltonen on snare drum, all performing under the guise of the Hellsinki Hellraisers.
Richard Townend’s laid back steel guitar has been compared to legendary J J Cale while the Gramophone Jass Band will be appearing hot foot and swinging from the Edinburgh Festival fringe to thrill the crowds.
Not having to come so far is popular Orcadian Andy Taylor who is bringing drummer Dylan Pepper with him.
What’s on from the local exponents of this music of melancholia? We have Beef Cleaver fronted by Claire Thomason, fresh from last week’s resounding success at the Heavy Metal Buffet.
The Donald Anderson band has pedigree as long as your arm and other stalwarts are Sore Finger, an offshoot of Matt Vinyl and the Decorators, while the Blue Melts are “bluesing” at Vidlin. Newcomers to watch out for are Whalsay combo Led Zetland.
It promises to be a weekend of wondrous woe!
* One performer who was due to play three concerts but unfortunately pulled out on Thursday is Lincoln Durham.
He went down a storm last year but has had to cancel his UK tour at the last minute.
A spokesman for Durham said: “We are very sorry to say that due to circumstances beyond our control we have had to cancel Lincoln’s UK tour. We arrived at the airport yesterday, airline documents in hand showing his equipment was within their own size and weight regulations for musical instruments, but in the end they chose to disregard that information completely and told us it would be $3,600 to fly the gear, and would not accept one of the cases at all. We are beyond devastated that this has happened as we have flown internationally on the same airline with Lincoln’s gear in the past without any trouble.
“Unfortunately, we are hearing of more and more musicians having similar troubles when flying (especially internationally). In the end, even if we could have added another case to get them to at least accept everything he had, we simply could not afford it. Please know that we tried absolutely everything possible to try and make this work, and we truly appreciate your understanding. We have a long battle with the airline ahead of us.”
Anyone with advace tickets has been offered a free download.