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The Retro Modernist

Her schooling was a mixture of private and public education in the States and she’d started High School when her mum gave her a book called The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How To Quit School And Get A Real Life And Education. So a stint at community college in Charlottesville ensued, and Devon began meeting musicians from the thriving Charlottesville arts and music scene.

She started “hanging out at the downtown mall and making a bunch of money just playing on the street,” learning to work the crowd. “I’d play things like Janis Joplin’s arrangement of Bobby McGee, songs that people would tip me most for. I remember this song, Love Is What I Got, it had this rap in the middle of it and I’d climb up on the trash cans and play for people and wink at their kids to try and make some money. I was kind of a ham anyway, so it wasn’t too far of a stretch.”

There was no hamming at the gig last night. Devon’s natural. Playing a few solo numbers to start with, she chats easily to the audience, drawing us into her world, making us laugh, confiding apparent intimacies. It ought to be kitsch and not in a good way, but it’s not. It’s charming. Her band last night were put together by her record company here and include the pedal-steel-playing legend BJ Cole. He emailed me about the experience.

“Rich [who runs Devon’s record co. in the UK] gave me a copy of Devon’s new album, and suggested we might work together. I must confess, on first listening I didn’t think it would work. When we played our first gig together at the Tin Angel I discovered that Devon’s slightly throwaway lyrical and musical sense belied the fact that she has a musical maturity beyond her 24 years. With her I get to play some very quirky and left-field stuff, but above all I have to listen to where I can and where I can’t play, because Devon’s music is always full of surprises. Although I’ve only played five shows with her, I feel the combination is starting to work well. I just love Devon’s guitar playing. It’s a style you don’t hear much these days, especially played by a 24 year old. I think the band Rich has put together for Devon is great, and I hope we do many more gigs together.”

fRom fRoots 289, July 2007


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