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Reviews / Sproule’s love affair with Shetland

Devon Sproule at Mareel for real on Friday. Photo Devon Sproule

GIFTED singer songwriter Devon Sproule’s intimate Saturday night performance at Cullivoe following her well attended Mareel show was an absolute treat for artists and audience alike.

The fifty or so folk were in for something different, and most received her alternative folk style really well.

First on stage, local singer and guitar heart throb Malachy Tallack presented his usual array of poetic anthems with gusto.

Tallack’s entire set felt well rooted, much like the proverbial willow tree. His disdain of city life and his early experiences with alcohol make it exceptionally clear which part of the world has most influenced his lyrics. 

His ode to Tennents Lager was funny, yet scarily close to reality for many in north Yell. Internal conflicts were evident all around, as men warily eyed their yellow and silver cans. 

Next up were Bernice, the Canadian duo accompanying Sproule who also produced an accomplished set in their own right. The polished picking of guitarist Thom Gill matched the lofty vocals of his stage partner Robin Dann to produce smooth and soulful songs such as How To Be French

The night went up a notch when Sproule and the rest of her outfit soon joined Bernice on stage.

The award winning and internationally acclaimed American/Canadian songstress has perfected her talent over a career that has seen her touring since her first album was released at the age of 16.

Bubbly, amusing and intriguing throughout her set, she delivers her soft, sweet and honest lyrics with a powerful voice, while her guitar playing is impressive in the extreme.

The resulting sound is predominately folk based, with curious jazz and funk undertones, a style entirely new to Cullivoe, but which pleased the majority of the crowd and earned her several new fans.

Tracks to look out for are Plea For A Good Night’s Rest, Aint That The Way, Old Virginia Block and, in particular, You Can’t Help It – the tune from her upcoming collaborative album Colours, which provided the highlight of the evening…musically, that is.

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After pressing concert duties had been attended to and well applauded, Sproule and her entourage were “treated” to copious amounts of Crappin Heids and Jaegerbombs.

Sproule has been here before, and joked on stage about how she “opened Mareel at the Garrison Theatre” last year due to the music and cinema venue delayed completion.

She got her chance this time around, reflecting that her Mareel show the night before had been an “amazing” experience.

“It was really fun, and I’d been looking forward to it for a long time,” she said.

“It was some of the best sound set up I’ve ever had and the people running it were so good, as well as really nice, which is kind of an amazing combination in this business.”

However Mareel must settle for playing second fiddle on this tour – Sproule said the more intimate Cullivoe gig will remain the highlight.

“It was wonderful; it was our favourite of the whole tour and another piece of the Shetland puzzle.

“When we heard it was going to be a crowd of fifty, we were actually really excited.

“I think I just want to play village halls from now on, and I’d love to come back and maybe make it a regular thing.

“The best you can ask for is a place with a strong sense of community, and also with a sound system that’s up-to-stuff.

“This was the perfect combination of feeling comfy and taken care of, and also being able to hear myself and the band really well on stage.

“I can’t remember ever being so well cared for. We’ll come back whenever we can.”

In fact, the Cullivoe encounter was so enjoyable – for both punters and performer – that Sproule is considering staying longer in the isles.

“I’ve been talking about maybe applying, or asking about doing a residency somewhere up here to write some stuff, which I think would be totally amazing.

“But first I’m going home to Texas, and a one off show in California, and then me and the band have got a tour planned for the UK mainland and Ireland.”

Daniel Lawson

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