The 15 visiting acts for this year’s Shetland Folk Festival have been announced with Grammy Award winner Mollie O’Brien among those making a return to the isles.
Other returning visitors include Flook, who last appeared at the festival in 1998, and Adam Holmes who will appear with Rura hot on the heels of his appearance at last year’s festival with The Embers.
New to festival audiences will be bluegrass outfit Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys making their debut appearance in the UK.
The visiting acts for the 35th festival are drawn from far and wide, featuring an eclectic mix from the USA, Canada,
Europe and as far afield as Australia. The festival committee say there is bound to be something for everyone.
Travelling across the Atlantic to perform are an exciting variety of acts. Grammy award-winning vocalist Mollie
O’Brien with her partner Rich Moore have been making critically-acclaimed music together since they met in 1981, with Mollie having a large Shetland fan base already following previous festival appearances with her brother Tim.
American roots music will receive a contemporary twist with sweet harmonies and tight-knit playing by bluegrass outfit Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, who are said to be one of the most exciting emerging bands on the American roots music circuit .
With more of an old country feel are multi-instrumentalists and harmonic duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West from Seattle who have already been creating quite a stir on both sides of the Atlantic.
From across the border and completing the North American contingent are two of Canada’s finest fiddlers Troy MacGillivray and Shane Cook. Both are award-winning players who perform a blend of Canadian old-time, Cape Breton, French-Canadian, Celtic and other tunes from a variety of traditions.
Travelling farthest is Frank Yamma, one of Australia’s most sought-after indigenous artists. Featuring simply his deeply evocative voice and some magical guitar playing, he promises to take audiences on a journey featuring songs in his native language and in English.
Scandinavia is well represented with a diversity of styles from Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
Performing a mixture of traditional Swedish tunes and polskas as well as their own compositions are award-winning trio Ahlberg, Ek and Roswall.
Esko Järvelä from Finland is no stranger to Shetland, having performed previously with Frigg and Baltic Crossing, and this year he is back and sure to cause a stir with his own progressive folk rock band Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band.
From Denmark, Habadekuk are another lively band featuring eight talented musicians who are guaranteed to get audiences on the dancefloor with their wild polkas, jigs and rough ‘n’ ready sailor songs.
From Ireland will come award-winning alt-folk band Tupelo. Featuring four musicians from different musical backgrounds, the band takes sounds as disparate as Irish traditional and American folk to produce their own, which has been likened to hugely popular Mumford & Sons.
Also representing Ireland and England too, the festival committee are welcoming back Flook, who last appeared at the festival in 1998. Traditionally rooted tunes are turned into a breathtaking sound featuring the technical brilliance of its award-winning flute, guitar and bodhran players.
From closer to home, Orcadian five-piece Fara will perform their fiery sound in Shetland for the first time.
Featuring four fiddles and a piano, the all-girl ensemble will play a mixture of self-penned and traditional tunes as well as some songs.
Also from Scotland, fiddler Duncan Chisholm will appear with Jarlath Henderson and Matheu Watson, performing their highly rhythmical and powerful selection of tunes. As one of the country’s most recognised and accomplished players and composers, Chisholm’s appearance at the festival is well overdue, said organisers.
Another act at the forefront of the Scottish folk scene, Rura will also be featured in this year’s line-up. The band has been going from strength to strength recently with their powerful sound, which is refreshingly contemporary but rooted in tradition.
Rura features three BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalists and an All-Ireland bodhran champion as well as the vocals of Adam Holmes, who played last year with his band Adam Holmes and The Embers.
Another act receiving rave reviews and achieving multiple awards is Welsh band Jamie Smith’s Mabon. Described as folk’s latest hit boy band, they perform a captivating set varying from Welsh-language love songs to energetic jigs and reels, all the time treading the line between Celtic heritage and contemporary music.
Completing the visiting band line up is Sheelanagig, Bristol purveyors of the finest Balkan jazz-folk mayhem. Their vibrant and energetic performances include elements of story-telling, street theatre and even acrobatics.
Additional street theatre, comedy and circus skills will be brought by variety entertainer Steve Cousins from Wangi Wangi, Australia who has been booked to assist with some of the festival’s additional community events.
As in previous years, all visiting acts will be in Shetland for the festival’s duration, performing at concerts all over the isles alongside local acts that never fail to do Shetland and the festival proud.
The festival will conclude as usual with the “foys” – three venues open on the Sunday night featuring a short 15-minute set by all 15 visiting bands. The foys continue to be the hot ticket events, with virtually all tickets selling out to early members.
• Early memberships will be on sale from 1st February and will close on 28th February through the website at www.shetlandfolkfestival.com. These customers will be able to book their concert tickets online for the three weeks before they go on sale to the general public.
Tickets will go on sale to early members from mid-March and to the general public from 4th April. The festival now operates exclusively with an online system for the purchase of memberships and concert tickets.