Finally! The sun came out to play on HebCelt Saturday and our souls were warmed by this solar kiss, as well as some sweet music trickling out of the Acoustic Tent, as the afternoon’s cornucopia of aural delights was kickstarted by James Nicol.
A Lil’ bit of Country is this Glasgow singer-songwriter’s stock in trade - the perfect opening high note - to enjoy from a sunny Lews Castle Green.
But, James got his set underway with a few more familiar musical favourites from The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ to Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’, much to the delight of the healthy crowd, who he encouraged to sing-along.
With a bit of Mark Cohn’s ‘Walking in Memphis’ and a snippet of The Animals ‘House of the Rising Sun’ the crowd loved James’ opening salvo.
However, the appreciation was no less for the more full-on Country genre tunes - the bittersweet love song ‘Better This Way’ and the regretful and full of longing tune ‘You Should Probably Leave’ also hit the spot with the crowd.
It was a great start to the afternoon!
From Soul amd Nashville we quickly caught up with HebCelt’s Trad roots when Jamie MacDonald and Christian Gamauf took to the Islands Stage.
The pipes, fiddle and guitar quickly got the feet tapping as the tempo was ratcheted up to a top notch Celtic curtain raiser.
For all the Celtic enthusiasts Saturday afternoon was now in full swing thanks to this musical blending of Scottish Trad with influences from Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia, and some Asturian strains from Northern Spain, also tingling the earlobes.
Later in the afternoon we time-travelled and changed location thanks to the band gracing the HebCelt main stage.
The Hoojamamas brought us psychedelic 60s and 70s vibes, with a truck load of melodies and some tent filling vocal harmonies.
Their sound was a pic-n-mix of goodies - veering off into soulful, southern USA gospelly, but spliced with country and cajun styles.
The whole effect transported the audience from Lews Castle Green and its flirty, fickle Hebridean sun to the balmy oven of an Alabama afternoon.
There were more influences from the States at the Islands Stage, as Jake Morrell and his big rough vocals on Country-style tunes did a great job of capturing a decent crowd.
He might have seemed like he was straight out of Nashville, but Jake’s HebCelt turn comes via his roots in Norfolk and his musical concoctions were certainly a hit with the crowd, as songs such as ‘Hey Darlin’ and ‘Got a Country Soul’ definitely hit the mark.
It was a full on afternoon for musical fans and Saturday evening provided a great flourish to the whole weekend.
In the Acoustic tent, Trad was once again up front and centre, thanks to the talents of Benedict Morris, with this young musician impressing the vibrant tide of folks drawn to the strains of his strings.
Twenty-one year old Benedict won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, and part of his prize was the HebCelt gig.
According to the crowd’s appreciation of his set, it is no doubt that he will be back for more.
At the Islands Tent the evening menu of musical delights was bolstered by the talents of Talisk and their sound, which combines the gifts of the concertina, fiddle and guitar.
Their unique musical blend gave us a great beat to take us into the mid-evening and set us up for the joys of the main tent headliners.
And it was the strains of Nashville and Rock which provided the backdrop for the Saturday night party at the main tent.
The Shires brought Nashville central to our doorstep in the Hebrides.
Although the Country and Rock n Roll combo is a well worn path, it is easy to see why it finds favour with a broad church of musical fans.
Lead singers Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes took us on a musical trip featuring love, loss, longing and fun.
The chemistry between these two performers was palpable and it also affected the crowd - I’m sure there were more than a few secretly wishing that each of the lead singers was singing to them and not each other - whew!
With songs such as the bittersweet ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, and the fun party number ‘I’m Guilty’ The Shires have certainly made some new friends in the Outer Hebrides and are welcome back to these shores anytime.