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The Retro Modernist

Having heard the album these thoughts do not seem like the rose-tinted musings of a love-struck husband, but rather an apposite appraisal of the finished work. It’s a work which finishes with a fine reworking of a traditional song, The Weeping Willow, on which both Paul Curreri and Mary Chapin Carpenter sing with her. More generally, Devon’s attracting attention from people she admires, including Joan Baez who said “Count me amongst your fans”. Cool. So, what’s her story?

Fresh and sparkling as promised, despite the late gig and early morning, Devon’s sitting in my kitchen facing breakfast with the customary mud coffee (“I think I must have got the end of it?” she enquires politely, hopefully even, that there might be some arriving that’s drinkable) and tells me, from the beginning.

“My dad’s Canadian. My mum’s American, but she lived just over the border in Buffalo, right near Niagara Falls. Mum needed to escape to some place which provided more of her idea of a fruitful, meaningful life. For her, that meant moving to a commune. She met my dad when she moved to a little community in Ontario. A couple of years later they had me. I was born in Kingston General hospital, but the community we lived in was very small and rural. I spent the first year of my life there, then we moved down to Virginia.”

“Twin Oaks is a bigger community, but the really interesting thing about the communities I grew up in is that they’re all consensus decision-making based. Where I grew up, everyone gives each other feedback and you say ‘Can I ask you a question?’ before you ask the question. Since you’re living on top of these people all the time, 80 adult members, 15 kids, you have a language that’s very purposeful and it’s all about communicating and being respectful and living together and sharing your life. To a kid you don’t say, ‘No, that’s bad!’, you say ‘That’s not OK’. You don’t say ‘You’re bad for doing this!’, you say ‘When you do this, it makes me feel this’, you’re not saying you’re a bad person. It’s not extremely romantic, but it’s a pretty ambitious way of living. My dad was really attracted to all that. He’s super open-minded, not too much of a hippy, but not too much of a regular guy either.”

fRom fRoots 289, July 2007


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