2011 Shetland Folk Festival Line Up Announced

by Deborah Leggate -

The organisers of the prestigious, world-renowned and award winning Shetland Folk Festival have just launched the provisional visiting artiste line up for the 31st four-day "spree" of brilliant folk music, sessions and sleep deprivation.

Announcing 14 bands that represent at least 9 different nationalities, this year's line up is looking to be as internationally diverse and eclectic as its predecessors – no mean feat considering last year's Festival won "Event of the Year" at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards.

Crossing the Atlantic to put in an appearance are four fantastic acts.  The "hillbilly hurricane" from Kansas City, Missouri, aka The Wilders will be making their long awaited debut performance on Shetland soil.  So too will St Louis musicians and singers Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three, who have become one of the biggest draws on the Stateside roots music circuit over the past couple of years.   From further to the South, travels the incredible young family band L'Angelus who combine the very best of Louisiana's music traditions from Cajun fiddle tunes, saxophone driven swamp-pop and New Orleans influenced R&B.  Joining these three from neighbouring Canada is one of the most sought after exponents of Quebecois musical culture, three piece outfit Genticorum who specialise in weaving precise and intricate fiddle and flute work, gorgeous vocal harmonies, energetic foot percussion and guitar and bass accompaniment into a jubilant musical feast.

Scotland is also well represented with three of the biggest names on the folk and roots music scene today.  Scottish piper Fred Morrison, one of Celtic music's most profoundly skilled and audaciously inventive exponents, is making his debut Shetland appearance with his trio, whilst the Festival welcomes back Breabach.   This now five-piece band are one of the most creative and diverse bands to have emerged from the Scottish folk scene in recent years and have just garnered a prestigious nomination in the best group category in the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.  The “flirtatiously funky” all female 6-piece, The Shee are also making their first appearance in Shetland with their adventurous brew of Folk, Scots, Gaelic and Bluegrass!  Comprised of both English and Scottish musicians that met doing Newcastle University's Folk and Traditional Music Degree course, The Shee boast some of today's cutting-edge instrumentalists and singers in the folk scene.

Continuing the Newcastle link, the Festival is welcoming back English guitarist Chris Newman who has been principal guitar tutor for Newcastle University's Folk B.Mus Course since its inception and who will be accompanied by two of his students on his trip to the isles.  His astonishing variety of styles and techniques from blues influences, jigs and reel, bluegrass and jazz is a guaranteed hit with Shetland audiences.

From across the Irish Sea, the Festival welcomes a relative newcomer to the music scene who has been identified as “the one to watch in the future” by Irish Music Magazine.  The Oonagh Derby Band featuring Gerry O'Connor and Gino Lupari, features a singer whose diverse style is influenced from listening to old Irish tales and ballads fused with modern tastes in blues, jazz and swing.  Gerry and Gino, perhaps most profiled for their work with Four Men and a Dog, will also be teaming up as a duo for the Festival.  Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “the best ever banjoist in the history of Irish Music” Gerry O'Connor has brought the banjo to places no other has tread before, whereas Gino Lupari has been described as the “god of the bodhran”.

High-energy dance music will be delivered by Beltaine who are one of the most interesting and exciting Polish groups on the folk music scene today, who have carved their own unique Celtic sound.  Norwegian/Swedish quintet Sver also specialise in supercharged dance tunes influenced by the traditional music of the mountainous Røros area of central Norway and the culturally rich regions of Hallingdal and Hardanger.  Fellow Norwegians, Knerten & Co who have been invited as the Festival Club's leading session band, earned it by their reputation for having lots of humour and energy as they deliver their unique style of traditional Norwegian folk music.

Completing the Scandinavian contingent are two of Denmark's most exported and multi-award winning musical names with the booking of the Harald Haugaard Quartet featuring Helene Blum.  Hailed as one of the world's best folk fiddlers by fRoots magazine, Haugaard has performed and taught all over the world, including nearly 1000 shows between 1998 and 2008 with Denmark's biggest musical export, Haugaard & Høirup.  His wife Helene's music is also deeply rooted in the rich and distinctive Danish musical tradition and she has already thrilled audiences throughout Europe and from Canada to Japan with her intensely expressive and crystal clear voice.

As in previous years, most visiting musicians will be in Shetland for the Festival's duration playing at different venues throughout the isles alongside fantastic local acts such as Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag and Bryan Gear & Violet Tulloch.  The Festival will conclude with the famous “Festival Foy” events on Sunday the 1st where most visiting musicians will play three separate 15-minute slots in three different venues!  Foy tickets continue to be the fastest selling ticket of the weekend, with virtually all being consumed by advance members in 2010.

Advance Festival membership will go on sale on 21st January and until the 25th February, with membership forms/info available on the Festival's website and through The Shetland Times.  For more information, including all the visiting acts" biographies with sound samples please visit: www.shetlandfolkfestival.com