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The Retro Modernist

Devon Sproule
Photo: Judith Burrows
Similarly, the band Devon worked with on KYSS was put together by her producer, Jeff Romano. In keeping with her experience of working with people mostly older than herself, they are “session guys, in their 30s and 40s”. She has nothing but praise for Romano, one of her closest friends who lives and has his studio in Greenwood Virginia, about 20 minutes outside Charlottesville. “The drive to it,” she says, “is my favourite stretch of Virginia, it’s got a horse farm on one side, all rolling hills and white picket fences and on the other side there are vineyards. Any season it’s beautiful, any time that I would go up there to work, I would get to have this drive.”:

Where my ears hear a hundred bees/Riding that upwarding breeze/A veil and a bucket by a pair of oak trees/Just another blond kid, in the Blue Ridge/It’s all to make a pattern of love (from Old Virginia Block, Devon Sproule, 2007).

Devon’s unusual ability to imbue her music with a sense of place is supported on Keep Your Silver Shined by the recording techniques themselves. These give an intimacy, paradoxically not achievable simply with close mic-ing. “We set up a load of room mics in Jeff’s really light, beautiful upstairs living-room with tons of plants, to try and get an idea of what it sounds like to actually be there. You know that wonderful shot of Bob Dylan playing a track with his band on Art Love And Theft? His band are right behind him; sonically that’s what we wanted to get, even on songs we multi-tracked so weren’t doing live. It’s subtle, but you can hear the whole room as opposed to just someone’s mouth or the soundhole on their guitar.”

Some (notably our Ed.) have spotted a distinctive Canadian element in Devon’s work. This is not to do with the McGarrigles or the Be Good Tanyas, she says, but rather with her “Unitarian Universalist Grandmother” (She explains: “Unitarian Universalism is not a very old religion and it’s not very religious, it’s a very ‘love-everyone-and-worship-any-god-you-want’ religion.”), who “bought a property on the north end of Lac Tremblant in Quebec, north of Montreal at the base of Mt. Tremblant – the trembling mountain and the trembling lake.”

fRom fRoots 289, July 2007


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