The lineup for the 40th Shetland Folk Festival has been announced with festival favourite J.P. Cormier returning as part of the bill.
Eleven countries are represented in the eclectic musical lineup which includes fan favourites from the last four decades alongside a host of new acts.
Scottish legend Dougie MacLean, famed for writing the much-loved unofficial national anthem Caledonia, will return to the isles having first appeared on the folk festival bill back in 1986.
Grammy-nominated string band Della Mae, comprised of some of North America’s finest bluegrass musicians, are among the festival debutants.
The Heidi Talbot Trio will also appear for the first time with the Irish songstress marking 20 years as a performer in 2020. She is appearing alongside Swedish 12-string guitar player Roger Tallroth, of Väsen fame, who performed at Shetland Folk Festival in 2003 and 2010.
Also crossing the Irish Sea to perform for the first time are JigJam. The quartet are said to blend the best of traditional Irish music with bluegrass and Americana in a new genre which has been branded ‘I-grass’.
South African choir Imbube UK will also be brand new to Shetland audiences. Formed by some of the most talented African artists and musicians based in the UK, they are a sub-group of the South African Choir UK who toured as part of the Graceland Tour with Josh Turner last year.
Making their UK debut are American contemporary folk duo, Paper Wings, who have been gathering acclaim with their subtle blend of acoustic Americana. Other first-time performers to Shetland are Bristol-based nine-piece outfit Cut Capers who have become a cult hit at festivals across the UK with their heady mix of brass-driven swing, funk and hip-hop.
Making their Scottish debut are New England Contra dance band, Stringrays. Though the band are making their Shetland debut, fiddle player Rodney Miller is no stranger to local audiences having previously visited with former band Airplang.
Scottish super-group The Poozies also hold iconic status in Shetlanders’ memories after they wowed audiences back in 1991 and featured in the Shetland Sessions TV series that same year. With a new lineup and material, they are looking to do the same again.
Other returnees include a smorgasbord of Scandi favourites such as Finnish power-folk septet Frigg, Danish party band Habadekuk, and fiddle trio The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc.
There is also the highly anticipated return of Le Vent de Nord from Quebec. Now touring as a five piece with the addition of Andre Brunet (formerly De Temps Antan), Le Vent Du Nord last delighted Shetland Folk Festival audiences in 2008 with their hard-driving soulful music, which is rooted in Celtic, but incorporates a broad range of global influences.
Just one year after Cape Breton’s J.P. Cormier made a hotly anticipated return to Shetland the highly acclaimed guitarist will be back again “due to popular demand”. This time he is accompanied by long-term collaborator and swing guitarist, Bill Elliott.
The Shetland Folk Festival “prides itself each year in displaying up and coming talent” and this year Project Smok will bring together three of Scottish music’s most exciting young players. The trio – comprised of Ali Levack on pipes and whistles, Pablo Lafuente on guitar and Ewan Baird on bodhrán – will revitalise their native West Coast traditions with a high-octane brew of funk, jazz and electronic stylings.
The musical connections between three of Scotland’s island groups – Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides – will be celebrated with a special collaborative “Between Islands” concert featuring celebrated musicians and singers from each of the areas.
Leading Western Isles vocalists Julie Fowlis and Kathleen MacInnes will appear alongside Orcadian duo Saltfishforty (Douglas Montgomery and Brian Cromarty) and Shetland’s Jenny Keldie (née Napier) from Burra, as well as plenty of other Shetland musicians and young singers who will make guest appearances.
Of her forthcoming trip to the festival Oscar nominated Fowlis said: “I’m just delighted to be returning to the Shetland Folk Festival. It’s been a good few years since I visited, and it’s especially exciting to be heading to the festival as part of ‘Between Islands’ – a project that really celebrates the music, culture and craic that binds island folk together.”
As well as Saltfishforty, Orkney will also be represented by a one-night-only performance by much-loved eight-piece supergroup The Chair who will once again bring their riot of fiddles, banjo, accordion and drums to the festival.
Shetland Folk Festival publicity officer Louise Johnson said: “We strive to showcase a real variety of styles during the Shetland Folk Festival and we hope that this year’s visiting lineup of returning favourites, new favourites-to-be and up and coming talent will hit the mark for our festival goers.
“We are so proud that the festival has reached this 40th milestone and can’t wait to celebrate with locals and visitors, while showing off the amazing local talent that Shetland continues to deliver for us year on year.”
This year’s festival is being supported by investments from EventScotland and Creative Scotland.
VisitScotland’s director of events, Paul Bush, said: “I’m delighted to see the Shetland Folk Festival celebrating this landmark year with such a fantastic lineup.”
Siobhan Anderson, music officer with Creative Scotland, said: “The 40th year of this major festival will see local artists as well as some of folk’s biggest national and international names take to the stage in Shetland. This year looks set to be one of the festival’s best yet, and is sure to have something for everyone.”
The 40th Shetland Folk Festival runs from 30th April to 3rd May 2020 and early memberships go on sale at the festival’s website on 1st February.