Devon Sproule | Keep Your Silver Shined (2007)
Track Listing

  1. Old Virginia Block [MP3]
  2. Keep Your Silver Shined [MP3]
  3. 1340 Chesapeake St.
  4. Let's Go Out
  5. The Well Dressed Son to His Sweetheart
  6. Eloise & Alex
  7. Does the Day Feel Long?
  8. Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest
  9. Stop By Anytime
  10. The Weeping Willow


MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS Alan Brownlee 22/3/2007
She comes from Virginia and wears vintage dresses, and already the O Brother Where Art Thou cliche is going begging. In fact, Devon Sproule favours slinky jazzy chords and has the immaculate timing and poised delivery of a first-class jazz singer.
Oh, and there's no shortage of sass. But the Great American Songs Devon sings are her own Great American Songs.
Though 'Great' is perhaps not the right word for songs that are so alive to the sensuality of the everyday. The Sproule philosophy is summed up in the title, Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest.
4 out of 5

"If you dress sharp, play well, be modest and keep good what you have/When you're warmed up in a wood room/What could be better?" asks Devon Sproule on one track, and put on the spot like that, it's hard to dispute. This fourth album from the 24-year-old Canadian presents her as a latterday old-timey gal in the manner of Jolie Holland, with feet in the bluegrass/country and swing/jazz camps. Her vocal inflection has something of Maria Muldaur's blend of innocence and experience, while the clarinet, accordion and loping double bass on tracks such as "Does The Day Feel Long?" and "Let's Go Out" recalls Leon Redbone and Dan Hicks. Elsewhere, "Old Virginia Block" offers a poetic tribute to her adoptive home state, animated by the bluegrass fiddle dancing its serpentine way through the song.

The debut release by the new Coventry label, spawed from the increasingly legendary venue, the Canadian born, Virginia based singer-songwriter's fourth album draws thematic inspiration from her recent marriage to fellow musician Paul Curreri and musical influences from her explorations of jazz and swing.
Evocative at times of Victoria Williams, it's a lazy sun dappled, gurgling creek of an album, opening to the back porch banjo n fiddle moonshine blues Old Virginia Block and closing with the plaintive traditional The Weeping Willow where she harmonises with Curreri and a curiously uncredited Mary Chapin Carpenter to backwoods hymnal effect.
Inbetween she also trades lines with hubbie (who also plays on most of the tracks) on his own wistful reverie Eloise & Alex, lounges in a hammock (lyrically and musically) for Does The Day Feel Long (where Leon Redbone meets Maria Muldaur) with its double bass and clarinet, and shuffles into a breathy bossa nova breeze for Stop By Anytime, a song surely hewn from the pages of Mark Twain's picture book. And isn't there just a hint of fellow countrywomen the McGarrigles on the playful delights of The Well-Dressed Son To His Sweetheart?
So homespun you can almost taste the apple juice and smell the lilacs drying on the wall, it's peppered with images of nature and domesticity; orchards and a grocery list pinned by a magnet on the title track, a basement full of wine at the jaunty lollopping 1340 Chesapeake, and noting how 'a groundhog ate the lettuce'on the gorgeous clarinet and accordion brushed Let's Go Out.
Combining her finely sketched observational songs with the laid back effortlessness of the playing (a special plaudits to Nate Brown on drums), this could well be shaping up as one of the year's best contributions to the library of American folk roots. Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest she sings. She does and she is. Allow me to sing her praises then.

There's a refreshing sweetness about the work of this 24-year-old American songwriter -- there in her mellifluous vocals and poetic, freewheeling lyrics that, in the way of Bjork and Joanna Newsom, are more blank verse than rhyming schemes. Sproule's songs ooze the atmosphere of balmy Virginia days - she grew up in a commune in the state - and her sunny outlook is infectious. She even has a song called 'Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest'. This second album extends her musical reach into swing and country flavours, clarinet and pedal-steel accompaniments; even some erratic production doesn't dent Sproule's youthful charm."
- Neil Spencer

BBC - 03/07
Though still only 24, Devon Sproule's Keep Your Silver Shined will be her fourth album. Her last, Upstate Songs, was listed as one of Rolling Stone's best albums of 2003 and I can only see this one making more of a splash.
Sproule grew up on communes in Canada and Virginia with her musician parents and started playing in a local mall for spare change as a teenager. The autonomy this upbringing bestowed on her from a young age - for example leaving high school early to dedicate her time to music- certainly comes through in these very original, carefully crafted songs (she apparently spends about a month writing each one).
Sproule has called this latest her getting married album and it is both more settled and more playful in tone than her last instalment. The style ranges from the melancholy vintage-country of Dress Sharp, Play Well, Be Modest to the whimsical Let's Go Out, written in the style of a slightly twee but very endearing jazz standard. Elsewhere on the album are hints in turn of Django Reinhardt and Gillian Welch.
There's plenty of harmonica, fiddle and banjo for the folk/country fan, but what comes through more strongly than any genre is the personal stamp of Devon herself; beautifully sparse arrangements like delicate spun-sugar constructions, and melodies that surprise the ear when you first hear them, but which then get under your skin much more than anything more obvious would.
Another joy is Sproule's mellow voice and delivery which deftly balance country/folk solidity with jazzy sophistication.
In many of the lyrics Sproule summons up a rather idealised picture of Virginia and the laid-back country lifestyle, "watching the screen blow in and the / hummingbirds swarm' and the sun spread thick on the worn out lawn"
But it's all rendered so eloquently and delivered so unaffectedly that it's extremely difficult not to buy into the dream; one can only believe that this sparkling young musician is following her own call to enjoy life to the full; "Let the humidity curl your hair, / And the mulberries stain your toes." - Miriam Craig

Devon Sproule + Adrian Crowley @ The Luminaire, London March 23rd 2007><.b>
The Luminaire is the greatest venue in London for many a reason, it has the best atmosphere, the friendliest staff, the best policies (shush, when the bands are on) the most eclectic line up from night to night, the best soundtracks between bands, a brilliant overall sound and a quality control of bands that you can't find in many other places in the UK and definitely not in London.
With the good men from Tin Angel Records (the new Coventry label from the bar of the same name) showcasing their signing, Miss Devon Sproule, and gaining assistance from Mister Adrian Crowley, the list of sterling music that has engulfed the room is not yet set to take a fall.
Taking to the stage with guitar in hand, Adrian Crowley plays a set of songs that tell tales of distant brothers and life in Ireland. His heartfelt tales and chiming guitars fill the air with melancholy but it's a beautiful thing. Imagine if snow patrol gained any form of marginal talent and they would begin to sound this superb.
In between sets saw Tin Angel Records spin some of their finest ranging from Dolly Parton To The Doors with splashes of Johnny Cash And Ray Charles thrown in for good measure it was certainly good enough to keep everyone on their toes while we were waiting for Miss Sproule to weave her magic.
Adorned in a vintage dress with pinned back hair and brandishing a Gibson that was far older than the pretty lady playing it, Devon played songs from when she was just 17 years old "before my husband taught me how to finger-pick" all the way up to her present day and songs off the new record 'Keep Your Silver Shined.' You could close your eyes and be whisked to a time when things were simpler and the people were nicer and the hustle and bustle of London Town was a million miles away. Starting solo her sugar sweet voice bopping along nicely to the jazzy chords and impressive picking her hands made.
When she started to feel lonely, on came her band for the evening, consisting of Drums, Bass and Pedal Steel which was provided by the UK legend BJ Cole. It's at this point that Miss Sproule, whose solo renditions were beautiful, goes from that to damn near perfect. The words spring from her mouth so sincerely and cascading with Cole's swelling harmonious melodies, it doesn't get much better than this. With each song like hearing stories told from friends far gone, you only wish that as you walk outside, Charlottesville, which sounds so charming in your head, was at your feet.
Come back soon, Devon Sproule! Life is a lot more pretty when your songs are around. - Ross Drummond

If your becoming weary of all the female singer songwriters with the breathy voices and meaningless lyrics, then take a listen to this talented young woman, Devon Sproule, whos recently been touring the UK. In no way is this a country album, but there is quite a folksy feel to it, particularly on Old Virginia Block and the Weeping Willow. Its Tuneful, witty and extreamly listenable.