Going Across The Sea


Fiddle Fest

Nowadays there are so many music festivals around, that when one comes along offering something a little different you sit up and take note, finds Anna Docherty

Let me tell you a little story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. There once was a handsome be-quiffed Scottish musician named Tim Matthew (front man of Mystery Juice and various solo projects) and in 2007 he and Betse Ellis, from Kansas City band The Wilders, met at the Spiegletent in Edinburgh. It was a muggy summer’s eve and they traded fiddle tunes and chatted into the star studded small hours. 

A few nights later, Ellis invited Matthew on stage to play fiddle with her. When deciding what to play he asked her if she knew the traditional tune ‘Soldier's Joy’ and so they played that, starting with the Shetland version, then the Scottish version and ending with the American version that she knew. More after-hours drinking and playing sessions followed and the hazy possibility of one day collaborating arose.  

It all sounds a little bit too hunky-dory and rockabilly to be true. But fast forward to 2009 and an exciting new venture is stretching its legs and tidying its hair, ready to let loose. Inspired by his time with Ellis, Matthew has organised a mini music festival called ‘Going Across The Sea’.  

‘I've long been interested in the whole idea of the migration of tunes from the British Isles to America’ Matthew explains. ‘Betse re-ignited my interest and after The Wilders returned to the States, I went to work to put an idea into practice’.  

And so this spring, seven respected musicians from both sides of the Atlantic will take to the road. ‘I gathered together a group of musicians and Betse pulled in her friends too’, says Matthew. There will be a series of gigs around Scotland, with musicians from Orkney to Oregon adding their beats to the melting pot. Amongst them will be well-known Scottish names Kris Drever and Sarah McFadyen, as well as American musician Sammy Lind.  

‘I suppose it’s essentially a traditional style of music that we’ll be playing, but it’s about revealing the way traditional music is constantly evolving’, Matthew explains. Their sound explores the links between Scottish music and more Appalachian root-sy sounds - creating something jagged and contemporary, yet utterly organic and homely.

‘We won't actually all be together in the same room until two days before the tour starts’ Matthew reveals, ‘but that’s all part of the challenge’. And whilst they may not be physically united until the very last minute, they have never-the-less found themselves bound across the continents by one of the most powerful communicative forces of them all. Great music, that’s what.

Top Highland and Island gig picks

An Lanntair
Thu 23 Apr, 8pm, Kenneth Street, Stornoway,
01851 703 307.

Woodwick house
Sun 26 Apr, 8pm, Woodwick Bay, Orkney, 01856 751 330.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig
Fri 1 May, 8pm, Skye, 01471 888 000.

Glenuig Hall
Sun 3 May, 8pm, Glenuig, 01687 470 267.

An Tobar
Tue 5 May, 8pm, The Tobermoray Arts Centre, Mull, 01688 302 211.