Friday afternoon in Islesburgh and the impromptu sessions – and the odd pint – were already starting to flow.
Despite the relatively early hour the atmosphere was building and room 16 was packed for the first afternoon concert and the chance to see three visiting acts from far-flung corners of the globe.
First to the stage were Ten Strings and a Goatskin. The name may be a numerical description of the instruments (fiddle, guitar and percussion), but fails to mention the three musicians who bring them together.
From Prince Edward Island, Canada, the three-piece brings with it a polished sound complete with foot-stepping accompaniment. Fiddler Jesse Periard introduced the first song as being about an “an awkward 18th century dating technique”.
Details of the technique were left to the imagination, but the fast-paced instrumentals soon had plenty of feet tapping and heads bobbing along.
“We don’t really believe in starting it off with mellow,” says Periard.
In fact, there’s not much mellow about the whole set which combined traditional tunes with modern influences. The most experimental tune, Shoot the Moon, was the sole fruit of a five-day “creative break” that was supposed to instigate an album.
“That’s the weird one,” says Periard – a harsh assessment typical of the self-decprecating humour they displayed throughout. Quirky, yes, but it was as easy on the ear as the jigs and reels that made up the rest of the set.
It’s clear that the three young men of Ten Strings and a Goatskin have talent in bucket loads and I could easily have listened to more. But afternoon concerts are time-constrained and all too soon it was time to move on to the next act, The Goodbye Girls.
Their blend of old-time bluegrass and Swedish influence (courtesy of fiddle player Lena Jonsson) has plenty of warmth, harmony and humour. It felt just about the perfect mix for an afternoon in the festival club.
Molly Tuttle’s vocals breathe new life into the bluegrass anthems that made up the bulk of the set.
Little Maggie stood out along with Hello Stranger which brought bass player Brittany Karlson to the mic adding an extra dimension to the vocals.
The set ended with a rip-roaring version of Pretty Little Miss but the highlight for me was the murder ballad Rain and Snow – a gruesome tale beautifully told with Allison de Groot’s flailing banjo technique floating above the rhythmic guitar and Jonsson’s haunting fiddle. Excellent stuff.
Concluding the mini-concert was Trio Dhoore. I’d seen the Flemish brothers the previous night in Bigton and knew the crowd was in for a treat.
Inspired by the traditions of their homeland the trio have given Flemish music an adventurous contemporary twist.
It’s hard to pigeon-hole their sound but there’s no need to bother. Suffice to say they are very good.
Individually the brothers are technically brilliant but together their something else.
They didn’t disappoint. If you’re heading to any concerts this weekend you’ll be treated to exceptional musicality, but you won’t see a tighter band.