GIVEN the comprehensively dire advance weekend weather forecast, it was a bold move for the Glasgow-based guitar/mandolin/vocals duo of Jenn Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter to open their set with Nanci Griffith’s I Wish It Would Rain – but the ringing sweetness of their rendition instead coaxed the sun out, following an earlier cloudburst, helping the fifth Insider festival largely to defy the climatic odds.
Around the World was this year’s designated theme, with the festival programme styled as your passport to the Independent Republic of Inshriach – that being the gorgeously scenic Speyside estate where this most bijou of boutique events takes place, which does indeed come to feel like some miniature anarchist utopia, albeit one with some odd sartorial customs. Audience attire ranged from men in air-hostess uniforms to half a dozen fully rigged suffragettes; from goggled and helmeted flying aces to a lanky fellow in matching sari and wellies.
Butterworth and Salter’s captivatingly harmonised, Americana-inclined set was just one of myriad highlights among another lovingly crafted Insider line-up, which elsewhere took in India Alba’s unique Celtic/Carnatic fusion, further compounded by guest beatboxer Jason Singh; the thrillingly unclassifiable funk/folk/jam-band mash-up of Man’s Ruin; the resplendently joined forces of indie-roots favourites Woodenbox with the Horndog Brass Band, and the brilliantly ballsy, bluesy vocal might of the Bevvy Sisters, seriously souped up in a new collaboration with DJ Dolphin Boy. And with the likes of Karine Polwart, Alasdair Roberts and Rachel Sermanni headlining Sunday’s more folk-heavy schedule, even the rain’s eventual determined advent failed to dampen spirits.