Laeverick make a welcome return

Popular country band Laeverick make a welcome return to Shetland at the weekend after being a big hit at this year’s Shetland Folk Festival.

Former Shetland Times news editor Jim Tait gives his verdict on their album, Laeverick 01, ahead of their performance at the Burra Public Hall on Saturday, at 7.30pm.

Do you have a fondness for harmonies as sweet as a lark, contemporary country music (Americana, as it’s commonly known) and also want to boost local talent? If so, the debut album by Laeverick should be a must-buy.

The seven-piece band cut its teeth a number of years ago now, both in the modest surroundings of the Burra Methodist Chapel and also at the acclaimed Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival.

The centrepiece is the three-pronged vocal attack (all outstanding) led by the multi-talented Jenny Keldie (née Napier), now domiciled in Orkney.

She is joined by two others who also hail from musical families. Mhari McLeman’s father and uncles are the famed Pottinger brothers, and dad Geordie actually came up with the group’s name.

Rhonda Simpson meanwhile, is the daughter of May and granddaughter of Thomas Fraser himself, no less.

The other quartet are no slouches themselves. Ivor “Fred” Polson has been a consistently good bass player for many years, guitarist Trevor Smith burst on the scene with Shoormal and is such a fine songwriter, and Erik Laughton from Orkney provides steady drumming throughout.

And keeping the pot bubbling nicely is a veteran of more Shetland bands than you’d probably care to remember. Jack Robertson used to be better known for his guitar and double bass prowess, but is now without doubt the best pedal steel performer in the isles. There are 11 tracks in all, mostly all written by the band members themselves, and I would find it impossible to give any of them less than seven out of 10.

At the top of the tree in my opinion is Smith and Simpson’s beautiful Wild Heart, for “the restless hearts out there”, which has an absolutely sublime contribution from Robertson.

Immediately following that is the equally impressive Feet Fly, an up-tempo number from Keldie and Simpson, where the former displays her fiddle prowess as well as some formidable vocals.

The same pair also pen the opening track Trouble In Mind, with harmony and slide playing setting a standard that does not falter.

On Private Jack, Keldie switches to piano with great effect for her lament about a sister waiting for her brother to return from the First World War. Poignant words come from the late Shetland poet Jack Peterson, about the brutality of fighting and the trenches.

The band might not have built a reputation for rocking, but they come closest on Simpson and Smith’s Don’t Go, which has an upbeat melody and features Polson moving to mandolin. The Whalsay man does likewise on Bring Us The Bottle, with songwriter Simpson taking lead vocals, upright bass from Robertson and tidy lead guitar work by Smith.

The Keldie-Simpson double act contribute another two offerings in Dance For You, a country ballad said to be inspired from the “Nashville” box set, and the catchy Friday Night. The latter is about “high heels and high hopes”, or bad girls dreaming of bad boys. Say no more.

Keldie apparently presses a button on her new Roland keyboard and, hey presto, she’s playing jazz organ.

A guest in our house was asked during the first playing of the album for their thoughts of the origination of the band.

“Well obviously America,” she replied. Might they take that as a compliment? I guess they would.

Rise Up, written by Keldie for her boys Jamsie and Sam, evokes memories of a famous old country ballad, which I won’t name but should be fairly recognisable.

All through the harmonies never waver and the standard never drops. Simpson leads again with Too Far Gone, written by herself and Smith, and the contributions by McLeman and Keldie are immaculate. And finally, the third standout track for me is Keldie’s Morning Star, which features words by the late Jeanette Nowak. It’s a fitting end to a remarkably good album as it makes you long for more. Hopefully a follow-up won’t be long in the making.

Laeverick 01, by Laeverick. CD recorded and mixed by Tim Matthew, Mareel. Mastered by Gordon Gunn, The Caithness Mix Room.

• Tickets for tomorrow’s performance are available from or by calling Rhonda on 07826 060054 or Jem on (01595) 859295.


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