The Fourth of July is one of America’s two major holidays and is always celebrated in a huge way in the States. So folks happening upon the Coffee Shop in Strathpeffer last night could have been forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a slice of American Brigadoon. Owners Mark and Anya pulled out all the stops, dressing the cafe in stars and stripes bunting, huge American flags, and even a Confederate flag or two for good measure. Serving chilli dogs, root beer and Mountain Dew, even the food captured the spirit of Americana. But visual and culinary delights aside, the assembled crowd were actually there to experience Californian country music artist, Rick Shea. Local music legend Rob Ellen has been trying to bring Rick to the Highlands since 2005 and the night’s performance culminated those efforts in a superb way.

The night opened to a 3 song set by local artist Gilbert Anderson. Gil opened with American country song ‘Long Black Veil’, first recorded by Lefty Frizzell in the 50’s, followed by ‘Five and Dime.’ The final song was Reuben James, made famous by Kenny Rogers. All superbly played and sung, a great American set.

Contin based artist ‘Bull’ Fash Stewart was up next. Fresh from a European tour, Fash provided a whirlwind performance of his best known and loved songs, eliciting spontaneous sing-alongs and much hilarity from the audience. A brilliant natural born performer, it was great to see Fash back in his local surroundings, and he was on top form. ‘Here’s to the next time that we meet’ finalised his set, and I am sure the whole audience looks forward to that. (You can see an interview with Fash here)

Rick Shea kicked off his set with ‘No good time for leavin’. With a voice made for country music, and a fabulous Nashville guitar sound, we were instantly transported to a back room bar in America. The title track of his last album ‘Shelter Valley Blues’, set in a remote California region is a tribute to the hard places we sometimes find ourselves in life. The song has a distinct Bakersfield sound and reached number 3 on the EuroAmericana charts in 2009.

For his encore Rick returned to his Mexican influences. The song ‘Why do you leave?’ was performed solely in Spanish, but the vocal sentiment and guitar arrangement left no doubt as to the sorrow of the singer. Lightening the mood to finish on a happier note and with a final nod to California, the last song had a superb rockabilly feel. With every foot in the place tapping and some of the audience ready to jump out of their chairs to dance, Rick’s guitar picking brought the house down in style. Courtesy of Shea’s Mexican Father in law, the Spanish chorus of this song held very wise words for any man to learn, in any language. The chorus of ‘Que mas quieres, Que mas bueno as ser’ translates as ‘what more do you want, what else can I do?’ Wise words indeed, and a wonderful ending to a great night.

Thanks very much to first time contributor Lori Williams for the review.

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A lifelong passion for music matched with a geeky fascination for social media and websites resulted in the creation of Inverness Gigs back in 2010. The aim of the site is to help promote, support and generally raise awareness of the local music scene.In fairness fifteen years of being a psychiatric nurse never prepared me for the experiences that we have had over the last few years and the evolution of Inverness Gigs has certainly been a steep learning curve.I currently write (less and less), edit and co-ordinate most of the Inverness Gigs activities.Occasionally seen on Twitter, and  LinkedIn, if you want get in touch you can contact me direct at chris@igi.gs