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A Paisley Buddy with local connections is travelling from Finland to bring a truly unique sound to audiences in the Highlands and Islands.
Now residing in Helsinki artist and part-time tour manager Don McCracken and fellow expat Mike Lennie (vocals and guitar) have teamed up with Fenno-swedish singer/songwriter Anna-Stina Jungerstam (Nightbird) to enchant a selection of small Scottish audiences with some deep rooted original melodies.
The nine-date tour starts in Applecross on March 26 and takes in Thurso, Kirkwall, Inverness, Stornoway, Old Forge, Knoydart (April 3) and Garrison West, Fort William (April 4) before winding up at Tigh an Truish on the Isle of Seil on April 5.
Don spent many a happy childhood holiday at his granny’s, in Balvicar and is particularly excited about this forthcoming tour (read Don’s heartwarming story on pages 12 and 13).
‘I’m always looking for an excuse to get back there so this tour is very much a combination of work and pleasure,’ he told us.
‘Mike is in the same position as me – Scottish-born and bred but living here in Finland – and Nightbird has always loved hearing our stories of Scotland, so we finally decided to do something about it – I put on my tour-manager hat, got on the phone and we were all set.
‘This tour is really something special, I think, as we have deliberately avoided the usual cities and focused on getting far off the beaten track. This means not only that we get to travel to beautiful places, but also that small town and village venues will be hosting a couple of artists who would normally be playing on bigger stages.’
Nightbird herself is a rising star in Finland – having just performed on a couple of television shows, one of the being a big Christmas special, and her second album will be released just around the time of the tour. The first single from the album will be released at the end of this month.
A Swedish-speaking Finn, Nightbird is part of a minority of five per cent of the population in her country who speak Swedish as their mother-tongue rather than Finnish, and she’s interested to travel in the Highlands as there is a parallel situation with Gaelic-speakers in Scotland.
Her background environment has informed her art and resulted in a style of music that’s not entirely unfamiliar, but is at the same time completely original.
Her influences come from old blues pioneers and a blend of American folk and Finnish forest folk music and her songs are occasionally accompanied by her hauntingly beautiful slide guitar playing.
‘They call it the Ostrobothnian blues, though I never heard anybody play it before me,’ she said.
Musician Mike is turning the trip into a homecoming tour having lived in Helsinki for the last eight years.
‘He’s a real creative glue in the community, and one of the kindest people you could meet, so he’ll be sorely missed by us all,’ added Don.