An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed a varied selection of music at Saturday night’s Shetland Blues Festival gig at Mareel.
The opening and closing sets, from solo artiste Richard Townend and Giles Robson & The Dirty Aces respectively, were the stand-outs, although sandwiched in between were well-received performances from the Andy Taylor Band and Andres Roots & Steve Lury.
Townend, whose voice resembles Chris Rea to a degree, displayed some fine finger picking. His version of an old Etta James number and a song about World War II scientist Alan Turing were both well put together, while How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live was lovely stuff.
Swapping guitars seamlessly, Fault Line was another stand-out, evoking memories of early Dire Straits days, while Ring, Ask the Boss Man and Shoes completed a splendid selection.
Andres Roots and Steve Lury were on next – they are actually a trio with Roots’ fellow Estonian Peeter Piik on bass guitar.
Roots is a superb slide guitar player, and his undoubted skills were on full display when vocalist Lury decided to “try a little rumba blues”. It was steady, chugging music at its very best.
Build Me a Statue and Charles Brown’s Drifting Blues went down well before Roots, with the addition of a drumstick, appeared to add his lead guitar to the rhythm section, in a manner of speaking.
The Andy Taylor Group from Orkney has been already well covered for their performance at the Mid Brae Inn on the Friday night.
No-one can argue that Taylor is a burgeoning talent on the guitar – his instrumental on Messing with the Kid being an example – but tackling a Hendrix song was perhaps ill advised.
The finale came from Giles Robson & The Dirty Aces, all the way from Jersey. Magic Tricks featured wonderful doghouse bass playing from Ian Jennings, a man whose CV reveals he has recorded with the likes of Carl Perkins, Jeff Beck, Robert Plant, Tom Jones, Van Morrison, Paul Rogers, Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler.
Filip Kozlowski’s virtuoso guitar was to the fore on Keep on Digging and Some Kinda King, while drummer Mike Hellier’s dexterity was never over-emphasised but measured and precise throughout.
It was frontman Robson, however, who deservedly stole the limelight. I doubt if Shetland has ever seen a more talented harmonica player. Whether in powerhouse mode or more subdued, as on the tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson accompanied by just Jennings, he revealed why he is rated one of the best in the world.
Ramping things up a notch or two towards the end – with his tousled hair all over the place Robson was almost resembling Meat Loaf – we were treated to an excellent rendition of Steady Rollin Man. Then he explained the history of harmonica, a staggering, inspired piece.
Muddy Waters’ Honey Bee was superb, before the band finished with The Mighty Incinerator off their new album. Mighty stuff indeed.