They say there’s something for everyone at a Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys gig, which says much about their wide range of taste in music.
The group’s influences take in everyone from Ray Charles and Sarah Vaughan, to Celtic fiddlers and Paolo Nutini.
“We are sponges of musical influence”, says Lindsay Lou, the band’s eponymous singer-songwriter and guitarist. “Anything that floats into our minds from the outside world, and especially songs which we’ve expanded our musical repertoire and knowledge base by learning, have had a great impact on our sound.
“In addition we each have a distinct personality as individuals and those personalities come through the sound. “
The Flatbellys, who include Lindsay Lou’s husband, mandolinist Josh Rilko, got together at Michigan State University.
A young singer sang with them one night at an open mic session, but it wasn’t until she had completed her degree in human biology that she was added to the line-up and the group’s name.
The four-piece, which also includes bass player PJ George and Mark Lavengood on dobro, has been winning enormous critical acclaim for their music, which has been described variously as ‘bluegrass’, ‘roots’, ‘blues’ and ‘soulgrass’.
As well as greats like Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers – “people who have shaped American music by being themselves”, according to Lindsay Lou – they credit musicians from Michigan’s Earth Works Cooperative and other roots musicians among their influences.
But the band, who will play at the 20th anniversary Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway in July, also cite Celtic artists in their musical evolution.
“Invariably the music of Scottish and Celtic tradition has had an impact on us. Many of the fiddle tunes that showed us around the fret boards of our instruments have their origins in Scotland, Ireland and England”, said Lindsay Lou.
“The Bluegrass tradition has had a huge impact on us, and that tradition stems from the melding of immigrants from the British Isles to the US with African American blues in the Appalachian Mountains.”
The band recently played at the Shetland Folk Festival and Lindsay Lou singled out fiddler and HebCelt Hall of Famer Duncan Chisholm and Jamie Smith’s MABON, who is also performing at HebCelt this year, as among their favourite co-performers: “We also adore Paolo Nutini of course. What a musical force.”
The appearance at HebCelt comes as the band are enjoying some stellar reviews for their latest album ‘Ionia’, named after the town in Michigan where it was recorded in the front room of their house.
Lindsay Lou added: “We’re looking forward to immersing ourselves again into the rich musical culture that Scotland fosters and promotes.
“We’re also very much looking forward to seeing the natural beauty of the land surrounding the festival grounds and the historical heritage held in remnants like the standing stones (at Callanish in Lewis).
“HebCelt can expect songs from the new album as well as a few unreleased tracks and perhaps some covers of our musical idols. Maybe even a Paolo Nutini number?
“We expect to see some great music and to meet wonderful people living in the world of music.
“It’s always so comforting to meet musicians who are just like us but live so far away in a different culture. Music is such a unifier.
“Festivals are a great way for music lovers and musicians alike to see a lot of great music all in one place and to commune in the love and fellowship of that music. It’s great for everyone including families, young adults and senior citizens.
“There is a community feel at festivals that might only exist elsewhere in dreams or small community living projects. It’s the fun of camping and a concert combined.”
Tickets for all events during the festival, which runs from July 15 to 18th can be bought at www.hebceltfest.com/booking