Devon Sproule is a name I hadn’t heard in a fair while, not really since her album “Keep Your Silver Shined” gained a fair bit of airplay back in 2007. Although she’s released three albums since then she seemed to have slipped out of sight although by all accounts she has a sizeable and dedicated fanbase. Now with a short Scottish tour commencing later this month it’s as good a time as any to cast a critical eye (and ear) on her latest recording, I Love You, Go Easy.
Recorded in Ontario with Canadian trio The Silt it’s a quirky listen. With a very warm sound and eschewing a traditional band line up the signature notes here are swatches of analogue synths, woodwind and meandering guitars. At times the arrangements are reminiscent of the bucolic ramblings of Kevin Ayers when he was backed by the Whole World band. The burbling bass playing and Sproule’s vocal delivery also recall Joni Mitchell at times while the wordiness and storytelling adds to this sensation. The inclusion of a cover of a song by The Roches (Runs In The Family) nails the Canadian connection and places Sproule directly in the lineage of literate and well arranged modern folk with an emphasis on the vocal contributions.
The lazy paced delivery of the opening If I Can Do This pretty much sets the scene for the remainder of the album with Sproule hovering over a deceptively simple arrangement that gently pulses, a great start. The title song features a jazz influenced piano lead with Sproule’s voice mutlitracked towards the end to great effect. The Unmarked Animals ups the tempo sounding like something Kate Bush could have come up with both in its lyrical obliqueness and its sub reggae shuffle while there’s a gloriously goofy guitar solo midway through. Monk/Monkey has a brave guitar and trumpet duet along with some lyrical whimsy that repays repeated listening. Sproule’s lyrics are interesting throughout. The Warning Bell could be autobiographical as she describes in some detail her environment and lifestyle while The Evening Ghost Crab almost falls over itself with metaphors and similes, all successfully realised. The Faulty Body was inspired by the death of a close friend and recalls their moments together with a wry smile. The Roches’ Runs In The Family is given a faithful rendition which fits into the feel of the album like a jigsaw puzzle piece falling into its place but the other cover song, Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Body’s In Trouble stand out as a superb rendition, simply executed and a fine companion piece to the earlier The Faulty Body.
The last song, Now’s The Time, starts off with a more traditional country rock sound although its not long before some instrumental idiosyncrasies pop up. Finally an unlisted coda employs horns and woodwind on an enigmatic and disturbing recall of bad times and memories that brings the album to a puzzling end.
As we said at the beginning Sproule is touring around Scotland later this month, dates are below. So if anyone gets the chance to, please ask her what that final songs means. We’re intrigued.
Wed Aug 22: Woodlands Hotel, Broughty Ferry
Thurs Aug 23: Cromarty Old Brewery
Fri Aug 24: Woodend Barn, Banchory
Sat Aug 25: Byre Theatre, St Andrews
Sun Aug 26: Stereo, Glasgow
Mon Aug 27: Douglas’s Studio, Edinburgh
Tues Aug 28: Old Library, Kilbarchan
Wed Aug 29: The Tolbooth, Stirling
Thurs Aug 30: Acoustic Music Club, Kirkcaldy