Sproule spellbinds at Bixter

Devon Sproule unleashed her considerable talent at a packed Bixter Hall on Friday night as part of her third visit to Shetland.

Promoted once more by Neil Riddell, Sproule could leave no one in doubt of her ability with spellbinding singing matched by some beautiful guitar playing.

The Canadian born star had been busy with workshops through the week, but showed no signs of fatigue as her two equally matched instruments weaved mazy patterns in frequently contrapuntal directions.

First on stage, Sheila Duncan played her usual very pleasing set with her sweet but strong voice laying out some pretty personal material, notably her third song written after meeting “her other half”.

Duncan’s own brand of melancholic new country nestled seamlessly with a Kim Ritchie cover and she concluded her set with one of her own songs – Living a Lie.

Adam Guest then took the mic along with Louise Thomason and the pair performed a selection of Guest’s own songs starting with Open the Book. Probably best of the lot was the sombre Lullaby with Guest and Thomason swapping verses as well as singing in harmony.

Guest is already an accomplished stage performer while Thomason, relatively new to the stage, has a soft but beautiful voice, and will hopefully be gracing the stage many more times in future.

The duo performed a couple of able covers before finishing with the “musical postcard” Salt in Every Breeze.

After that was a departure from the singer-songwriter genre with the Mathew Adam band playing a variety of tunes that sounded mostly in the English trad/folk style popular in the 60s and 70s.

As well as Adam on vocal and guitar, the band featured Magnus Stout on vocals, guitar and fiddle, Euan Ellis on cajon  - basically a percussive tea-box – and Sarah Thomson on electric bass.

The played a string of lively and inventive songs in a very pleasing style where the music managed to sound both slightly ominous but upbeat at the same time. They finished with a flourish with a heavy-metal acoustic number which had them coming on like a less heavy-handed Hayseed Dixie in parts.

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Devon Sproule. Photo: Chris Brown

Great musicians playing some very interesting music that had one audience member cooing that Adam had a “beautiful voice.”

Finally, after a buffet laid on by the Bixter Hall, it was Sproule herself taking the stage in near-tropical heat. It was a slightly odd but very gratifying turn of events that such an acclaimed and far-travelled artiste should be playing in a country hall in the West Side that was rammed with only 70-odd folk there.

Sproule’s “hippy” commune upbringing is evident in her lyrics and rambling stage patter. She is totally straight from the heart and her songs are full of child-truthful innocence, imagination and fearlessness, many of them rooted in childhood adventures. You can picture her as a precocious, adventurous bairn who could have been anything once she grew up but who turned out to be a music star.

Even if you prefer the Forty Fiddlers, Johnny Cash or Rage Against the Machine, to witness Sproule is to witness something magical.

She should have played in Fair Isle on Saturday night, but that was unfortunately cancelled because of the weather.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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