New music festival pulls in top US acts

American music stars will share the stage with local talent at a brand new music festival in Unst this summer.

The inaugural Shetland Reel Music Festival will be held on 14th to 16th August, with proceeds going to charity and Baltasound Junior High School.

Organised by the owner of the Saxa Vord Resort, Frank Strang, it follows last year’s successful appearance by Dolly Parton’s guitarist Jim Salestrom, who performed solo and with Brian Nicholson at the Baltasound Hall to mark the launch of Shetland Reel Gin.

Jim, an Emmy Award winner who has also recorded and performed with John Denver and Kenny Rogers, will be returning to Unst to curate the new festival.

He said: “Unst is a truly beautiful place and I had a wonderful time there last year, so I’m really looking forward to coming back and making music again with some of my friends and some of the fantastically talented musicians like Brian Nicholson with whom I played last year.”

The festival will include appearances by the West Coast band Marley’s Ghost, Livingston Taylor and Jim’s son James Salestrom.

The Shetland musicians will include Lisa Ward, fresh from her star turns on BBC1’s The Voice, who is to play alongside friend and fellow Voice contestant Daniel Duke; the Sheila Henderson Band; Arthur Nicholson; Chloe Robertson; Adam Guest; Toni Sidgwick; and Dig Deep.

Lisa Ward. Photo: Dave Donaldson.



Marley’s Ghost comprises singers and multi-instrumentalists Dan Wheetman, Jon Wilcox, Mike Phelan, Ed Littlefield Jr and Jerry Fletcher.

They play genres from roots to rock, blues to bluegrass, and gospel to country, and are known for their trademark multi-part harmonies.

The band recently celebrated their 25th anniversary with their new album Jubilee, featuring guest performances from Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mary Stuart and Larry Campbell.

Born in Boston and raised in North Carolina, Liv Taylor is the fourth child in a very musical family that includes Alex, James, Kate and Hugh.

Equally at home with a range of musical genres – folk, pop, gospel, jazz – his hits include I Will Be in Love with You, I’ll Come Running, I Can Dream of You and Boatman, the last two recorded by his brother James.

Usually seen fronting his five-piece band The Electric Sunday, James Salestrom will be appearing as a solo artist at the Shetland Reel Music Festival, playing an eclectic fusion of revival rock, funk and blues, with just a touch of soul.

James said that his mission is “to bring back the fun and the beauty of what music used to be, while at the same time creating something new and exciting”.

Mr Strang said: “This is all about creating a unique blend of the sounds of America, sounds of Shetland – and it will be great fun.

“These are some of the most talented musicians in the United States who want to come to Shetland, to Unst, after hearing from Jim Salestrom about how great it is.

“Jim’s performance went down really well in Unst last year and we are hoping that music lovers from all over the country will come to hear some great music.”

He added: “I’m hoping that we can build this into a major fixture on the country’s music calendar.”

Mr Strang said he and his staff were hoping to erect a covered stage at Saxa Vord and possibly use other venues in Unst for performances.

More information about tickets and venues will be made available next month.

Profits from the event will be donated to charities including Horseback UK and Alzheimer Scotland (Shetland branch) as well as Baltasound Junior High School to help with funds and allow local children to join trips out of Shetland.


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