Folk review: 28th Orkney Folk Festival
28TH ORKNEY FOLK FESTIVAL VARIOUS VENUES, ORKNEY
AT TIME of writing, musicians in various states of disrepair were warming up for the Orkney Folk Festival's traditional Sunday afternoon sporting/comedy highlight, a unisex locals vs visitors football match, in which fresh heights of inspiration are annually attained in pursuit of victory, by fair means or foul.
Drifting along the main street of Stromness, meanwhile, through windows opened to greet the sunshine, are the strains of rousing jam-sessions ensconced in each of the town's three pubs, this informal all-comers music-making being as much a backbone of the festival, and as central to its international reputation, as the programmed gigs.
Stuck into many such sessions, besides delighting concert audiences wherever they played, were Oregon-based old-timey quartet the Foghorn Stringband, clustered around a single microphone on fiddles, mandolin, banjo, guitar, double bass and wonderfully gutsy, hollerin' vocals, matching pungent authenticity with tremendous technical finesse.
Also contributing to a strong transatlantic strand within the programme was Grammy-winning US roots icon Tim O'Brien, in a dream-team pairing with Orkney's own Kris Drever, serving up a feast of gorgeously plangent harmonies and world-class fingerpicking.
The Norwegian five-piece Stambordet drew influences from Stateside, too, with instrumentation including Hardanger fiddle, resonator guitar and banjo, mixing up traditional Nordic melodies with bluegrass and country flavours. A very local link with native American culture was additionally spotlighted by a screening of the fascinating 1980 documentary The Fiddlers of James Bay, tracing the Orcadian roots of fiddle tunes played by Cree fishermen in northern Quebec, via the history of the Hudson Bay Company.
Other standout turns came from Orkney power-duo Saltfishforty, whetting appetites for their imminent third album, young Scottish traditionalists Breabach, who sound tighter and more sophisticated with every outing, and Edinburgh vocal outfit the Bevvy Sisters, tingling spines and raising goosebumps with their sublimely arrayed three-part harmonies.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North east