Welcome to the 40th Shetland Folk Festival, 30 April - 3 May 2020!
As the UK's most northerly folk festival, the Shetland Folk Festival is regarded as a prestigious event for performers, locals and visitors alike. Organised by a voluntary committee (and run by an even bigger pool of volunteers) the Festival prides itself in reaching out to even the most far flung areas of Shetland. Concerts are organised throughout the isles, consisting of some of the best International, British and Shetland music that the world has to offer. In fact, visiting artistes are regularly dumbfounded by the quantity and quality of local musicians that our remote isles have to offer.
The event culminates with the Foy concerts on the Sunday night, where audiences have an opportunity of seeing most visiting acts in one evening. Held over three venues, the acts are shuffled between halls by mini bus and perform in each hall for around 15 minutes. It's crazy but it works! So, if you're tempted to make your way to the most far-flung folk festival in the UK, join us for the unofficial opening on 1st May on an overnight ferry in the middle of the North Sea. An event in itself!
The first festival was held in 1981 and has grown steadily throughout the years. It originated with a conversation held between the late Dr Tom Anderson and Charlie Simpson who had played at several festivals on mainland Scotland with the Shetland Fiddler's Society. Why shouldn't Shetland have a festival too, they wondered, and so the planning began. This was the ideal event to celebrate Shetland's own unique fiddle tradition and rich musical heritage. The inaugural organising committee was formed and in affirming their pride in Shetland's own musical tradition, the decision was made that local performers would share the concert platforms with visiting artistes. With people like the late Willie Hunter to promote, there was no fear that local talent would be wanting. This is a formula that has continued through all 39 Festivals to date.
Della Mae is a Grammy-nominated, Nashville-based string band who hail from across North America and are back touring after a 2 year timeout to progress other projects. Reared in diverse musical styles, they are one of the most charismatic and engaging roots bands touring who, before their break, were averaging 220 days on the road each year. During that period, they were requested by our festival-goers time and time again, but we couldn’t pin them down! So we are absolutely thrilled that Della Mae will feature as part of our 40th line-up!
Della Mae formed in Boston in 2009, spearheaded by 2-time national champion fiddle player Kimber Ludiker. As a bluegrass band that put high level picking and original song-writing front and centre, they were somewhat novel. They were named IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year in 2013, and went on to establish a reputation as an enigmatic live act comprised of some of the finest players in bluegrass, Americana and beyond. Originating from different musical backgrounds and states across the US and Canada, each member brings distinct elements that make Della Mae such a beloved band. Together they have a completely original style – sensitive yet assertive, intense yet playful, steeped in tradition yet undeniably current. Versatile instrumentalists and vocalists, they create vibrant original music with timeless lyrics and a stunning contemporary sound that will blow you away!
The Dellas played a handful of shows during their time out, but found their way back to being busy together with the release of the 2019 Butcher Shoppe EP, featuring mostly covers including the Allman Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs and Merle Travis. This is being followed with the release of a brand new album in January 2020, Headlight, where they have claimed a more daring sense of freedom than they’ve ever allowed themselves before. Boldly breaking genre convention, Della Mae have pushed beyond their bluegrass roots and followed their instinct to their most sonically adventurous body of work to date.
The band appearing in Shetland will be made up of lead vocalist/guitarist Celia Woodsmith, the afore-mentioned fiddle player Kimber Ludiker, mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner, guitarist Avril Smith and bassist Zoe Guigueno.
With more than 45 years as a touring professional musician, Scotland’s “pre-eminent singer, songwriter and national treasure” (Singout, USA), Dougie MacLean will make a welcome return to mark the 40th Shetland Folk Festival. He first appeared at the Festival back in 1986 and returned 20 years later in 2006. Originally famed for writing the much loved anthem, Caledonia, MacLean has built an international reputation as a songwriter, composer and extraordinary performer, and has wowed audiences all over the world including on the prestigious stages of Carnegie Hall in New York, London’s Festival Theatre and the Sydney Opera House.
Dougie’s beautiful songcraft has been covered by hosts of artists including Scottish stars Paolo Nutini & Amy MacDonald, Irish greats Ronan Keating, Mary & Frances Black and Cara Dillon, and Grammy award winning US country singer Kathy Mattea. His anthem ‘Caledonia’ has topped the Scottish charts and become one of Scotland’s most loved contemporary songs. His music has been used in TV dramas and many films such as ‘Last of the Mohicans’, Jennifer Lopez film ‘Angel Eyes’ and iconic film ‘T2 Trainspotting’. Dougie has had the honour of performing ‘Caledonia’ at the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, followed by Auld Lang Syne where he was joined by Kylie Minogue, Lulu and Deacon Blue – performances that were believed to have been viewed by over one billion people worldwide. He has also performed at Holyrood Palace for HRH the Prince of Wales and also on the BBC Hogmanay programme from Edinburgh Castle with James Taylor.
Dougie was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list in recognition of his services to music and charity. He has also recently received two prestigious Tartan Cleff Awards, been inducted into the Scottish Music Hall of Fame and given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the BBC.
Finnish septet Frigg has been conquering the world with their fusion of Nordic folk music and bluegrass styles, for which the world music media has coined the term “Nordgrass”. As the band are set to mark 20 years of touring in 2020, they were keen to include a trip to Shetland and we were delighted to invite them back to the Festival after an 11 year gap.
Frigg’s tight interplay of four violins, string instruments and contrabass, fine-tuned to perfection and spiced with humorous live energy has made an impact on listeners all over the world. Apart from countless European tours, the notches on Frigg’s belt include seven North American tours, seven studio album releases, appearances at many well-known festivals, and they have reached audiences of millions via television and radio performances.
The band members are Juho Kivivuori (bass), Esko Järvelä (violin), Petri Prauda (mandolin, bagpipes, cittern), Anssi Salminen (guitar), Alina Järvelä (violin), Tommi Asplund (violin) and Tero Hyväluoma (violin).
Frigg never fail to impress and entertain - and wherever they play, audiences beg for more!
Le Vent Du Nord
Shetland Folk Festival can’t wait to welcome back award-winning and highly acclaimed band Le Vent du Nord, who have enjoyed meteoric success since their inception in 2002 and are now a leading name in Québécois folk music.
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. They bring to their live performances a vast repertoire of both traditional and original compositions, combined with an amazing energetic stage presence full of dynamic flair.
Le Vent Du Nord never fail to impress with their glorious mix of fiddle and foot-tapping guitar, accordion, piano, bass, hurdy-gurdy and wonderful four-part harmonies. They deliver catchy songs and tunes with rich and varied instrumentation and well-polished musical arrangements, which have led to them achieving two Juno Awards, Canadian Folk Music Award, ‘Artist of the Year’ at the North American Folk Alliance Annual Gala and more!
The band members are Nicolas Boulerice, Simon Beaudry, Olivier Demers, André Brunet and Réjean Brunet, and collectively they know how to deliver music that will move any crowd – to their feet and in their hearts!
J.P. Cormier & Bill Elliott
Back by popular demand (and possibly the worst kept secret in Shetland!), the supremely talented Canadian J.P. Cormier returns with previous Shetland Folk Festival sidekick Bill Elliott to join in our 40th festival celebrations!
Hailing from Cape Breton J.P. Cormier is a first-class bluegrass/Folk/Celtic singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, sideman, innovator, recording artist and multi award winner. He has previously performed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 1997, 2004, 2012 (with Bill Elliott and his brother Mike) and in 2019 alongside Tim Edey. J.P. is an amazing individual who has been bringing his dazzling compositions and finger work to many theatres and festivals across the world for over 30 years. He began playing guitar at the age of 5 and quickly become immersed in the rich musical heritage of his Cape Breton roots. He moved to the USA for 10 years and performed many memorable nights at the Grand Ole Opry with such notable artists as Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart and Earl Scruggs to name a few. From winning his first guitar contest at age 9, he has since claimed thirteen East Coast Music Award trophies, 5 Music Nova Scotia Awards and a Canadian Folk Music Award, as well as Juno Award nominations. As well as guitar, J.P. has played a vast list of other instruments on his albums including fiddle, upright bass, banjo, mandolin, drums, percussion, cello and piano. 37 years after stepping on stage as professional union musician for the first time at the tender age of 13, JP is still going, and frighteningly, still getting better.
Joining JP on this trip across the Atlantic is multi-instrumentalist and singer Bill Elliott who is a real veteran of the Canadian music scene. JP Cormier has always surrounded himself with top-shelf musicians and in performing with the Elliott brothers since 2009, has taken his music to a new and exciting level. Bill Elliott has been travelling and playing East Coast Swing music since before he could shave and has been on the leading edge of the Atlantic Canadian bluegrass scene playing with his father, the legendary Carl Elliott. Bill is a multi-provincial fiddle champion, and can also play guitar, bass, mandolin and five-string banjo. With both J.P. and Bill having renowned skills for all things stringed, witnessing this musical partnership in action is bound to be simply electrifying and magical.
Douglas Montgomery (fiddle/viola) and Brian Cromarty (Vocals/Guitar/Mandola) are no strangers to Shetland having performed as Saltfishforty at the Folk Festival in 2003, 2009 and 2014, and also as part of The Chair at several Festivals. The much-loved Orcadian pair have been wowing audiences at many of the world’s top folk festivals with their infectious and feisty rhythms.
A partnership forged back in 2002 – more by accident than design – the two knew each other since primary school, and played together in sessions and various bands, until they were booked in a four-piece for a charity gig, and only the two turned up: “We decided to go on and just make as much noise as two people possibly could – which is kind of how it’s been ever since!” they say.
Saltfishforty have a fresh and dynamic sound, combining the rich traditional music of Orkney with original contemporary compositions, boldly cross-fertilised with influences from Americana to East European folk, plus a high-octane whiff of heavy metal. The powerhouse partnership have won a devoted following throughout the UK and beyond, brilliantly transcending the duo format’s conventional confines. Linchpin figures in the currently flourishing revival of Orkney’s traditional music, they unite these deep-rooted sources with an exhilarating breadth of influence and expertise, catalysed by a creative empathy born from decades of friendship. The result is a sound of equally thrilling raw attack and multi-dimensional richness.
Heidi Talbot Trio
Making her debut Shetland Folk Festival appearance is Heidi Talbot, who this year is celebrating 20 years of touring as a professional singer. Having first came to prominence as a member of Irish-American female group Cherish the Ladies, Heidi’s 2008 breakthrough solo release swiftly assured her promotion to the premier league with critics mooting comparisons as diverse as Björk, Enya, Linda Ronstadt, Norah Jones and Kirsty MacColl.
Hailing from Co. Kildare, Ireland, and having spent several years in New York, Heidi slips effortlessly between the musical worlds of Americana and Celtic folk, but retains a personal modesty rooted in tradition. Heidi Talbot is known for her stunning voice, sweet melodies and intricate arrangements of traditional and contemporary material. Now firmly established as a solo artist with five albums and numerous guest appearances for leading folk artists such as Boo Hewerdine, Eddi Reader and many more, she has also earned rave reviews for her records and live performances. Heidi has had extensive Radio play on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, and her television appearances include RTE's Late Late Show in Ireland, BBC Hogmanay Live, and CBS This Morning.
Her most recent album projects include a collaboration with firm Shetland favourite Adam Holmes and their ‘Arcade’ project, and also the release of a winter album, A Light in the Dark, recorded with three of Sweden’s finest folk musicians.
We are thrilled that Heidi will perform in Shetland with one of her Swedish counterparts, 12-string guitar player Roger Tallroth of Väsen fame who performed at Shetland Folk Festival in 2003 and 2010.
The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc
Shetland’s own Kevin Henderson returns to celebrate our 40th Festival with The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, the ever popular trio of talent who combine musical traditions from Shetland, Norway and Sweden to create their own unique sound.
From the moment Kevin Henderson, Olav Luksengård Mjelva and Anders Hall first played together in 2009, they felt a particular chemistry in the sound they created. Some seven hundred gigs later, playing at major events across Scandinavia, mainland Europe, North America and the UK, that chemistry continues to draw the trio together. Their use of standard fiddles, octave fiddle, viola and Hardanger fiddle has led to them being likened to a string quartet rather than just a trio and they last appeared at the Festival in 2014.
Their two albums have charmed listeners in the same way that their live performances beguile and satisfy, and they have received recognition including a Norwegian Folk Award and a place in Songlines magazine’s Top of the World selection for their first album. As dedicated tradition bearers, they have also created their own annual fiddle camp, which has taken place in Norway (2018) and Sweden (2019), while seeking out the tunes that will emerge on their much-anticipated third album in 2020.
They’re back for the party! Habadekuk first brought their contagious rhythms to the Shetland Folk Festival in 2015 and we couldn’t resist inviting this lively Danish 8 piece and their vibrant mix of folk, salsa and big band jazz back for our 40th celebrations!
As audiences are sure to remember, Habadekuk catapult old folk melodies into the 21st century and are guaranteed to get you on the dance floor! Expect everything from wild polkas and jigs to lyrical waltzes and rough ‘n’ ready sailor songs in an unforgettable live experience. Habadekuk have delighted audiences across Europe and Canada at many major music festivals, and both the band and its individual members have picked up several awards along the way – collectively they have taken home no less than 6 Danish Music Awards!
With Habadekuk are many established Danish friends of the Festival including fiddler Kristian Bugge who appeared with Baltic Crossing in 2012 and 2018 and pianist Theis Langlands who performed with the Fionia String Band in 2013. The other members of Habadekuk are Mikkel Aagaard on trombone, Jakob Holdensen on trumpet, Rasmus Fribo on saxophone, Emil Mathiasen on double bass, Sonnich Lydom on accordion and harmonica and Jeppe Bredahl on drums.
It has been a long gap, but the ever-adventurous Poozies are back, showing off their fantastic new line-up and all new material. Having first burst onto the folk scene in 1990, Shetland Folk Festival stalwarts will remember The Poozies as a popular visiting act at the 11th Festival in 1991 who appeared in the televised ‘Shetland Sessions’ series on the BBC, the precursor programme to the popular Transatlantic Sessions series. It’s about time they were back and we think it is more than fitting that they are here to celebrate our 40th with us!
Newbies Sarah McFadyen (fiddle, banjo, guitar) and Tia Files (guitar, fiddle, percussion) have joined founding member Mary Macmaster (electro-harp) and long-term cohort Eilidh Shaw (fiddle), and together they continue to play a dazzling, joyfully eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional tunes with beefy, powerful accompaniment. Their perfectly executed songs vary dramatically from Gaelic waulking songs to old-time American, country and pop. Throughout the years, The Poozies have toured worldwide, and attracted recognition and appreciation for their diverse choice of material, unusual and exciting arrangements, and heart-tugging vocal harmonies. As Eilidh herself says, “this most recent reincarnation of The Poozies is all about mischief and rebellion…” and we can’t wait to see and hear their onstage antics!
It wouldn’t be a 40th celebration without inviting back our favourite Orcadian ‘super-group’ The Chair - an 8 piece riot of fiddles, banjos, accordions and drums – for what will be their sixth appearance at the Shetland Folk Festival! Even if we can only take them for one night, we’re delighted they’re part of our big party and they’ll have a brand new album of material to showcase.
Melodies from their native Orkney are mashed up with blues, dub and klezmer to create their unique sound that qualifies them as a true party band that we’re simply addicted to. The Chair on-stage is an experience that will have even the most reserved audience beating a path to the dance floor.
Formed in 2004 to fill a schedule gap at the Orkney Folk Festival, the group has been bringing its unique frenzy to events the length and breadth of the country ever since. The band members are Douglas Montgomery (fiddle), Kenny Ritch (fiddle), Brian Cromarty (banjo, vocals), Bob Gibbon (accordion), Gavin Firth (guitar), Shetland’s Andrew Gifford (bass), Erik Laughton (drums), and Robbie Thomson (percussion). Collectively, the sound approaches the energy levels of a rock gig yet remains acoustic at heart. The band continue to tour major festivals nation- and Europe-wide, gaining swathes of new fans on each stop. With a new album in the pipeline we are excitedly anticipating some new material while also looking forward to hearing our favourite Chair classics again!
Photo Credits: (1)-(2), (13ff) Shetland Folk Festival, (3) Della Mae, (4) Dougie MacLean, (5) Frigg, (7) Saltfishforty, (9) The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, (11) The Poozies (unknown/website); (6) Le Vent du Nord, (10) Habadekuk (by Karsten Rube); (8) Heidi Talbot (by Michael Engstfeld); (12) The Chair, (by Walkin' Tom).