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Devon Sproule, The Greys, Brighton, September 3
"I feel like, if I can make sense of the two of us, then when I turn around the rest of the world will seem so much simpler," says Devon Sproule.
A country/jazz singer who has a beautiful voice and an almost unsettling way with words, Sproule is 25 and has just become the first American of 2007 to make the cover of roots bible fROOTS. With her trademark vintage dresses, 50-year-old Gibson guitar and charismatic intelligence, she is set to become the alt-folk star of the year. Think Nina Nastasia and Gillian Welch playing the freshest summer jazz.
And yet the album that's prompting all the fuss, April's Keep Your Silver Shined, is curiously domestic, a record about her husband, her home, and their life in Charlottesville, Virginia. "I've got the bookshelves loaded and the backyard is green and blooming," she sings on the bossa nova-tinged Stop By Anytime. "Let the humidity curl your hair, and the mulberries stain your toes. If you could come around, I could show you down to where the knots of the day untie." The cover photo is of Sproule on her wedding day, a pregnant friend in the background, flowers in her hair.
"This is definitely my most personal record, and it feels more original because of that," says the singer, who grew up in a Sixties commune and has now released four albums.
"My life has become more specific, more singular. A lot of this record has to do with being married for a couple of years, which was a big deal at 23 and coming out of this commune setting. My mum's a lesbian and my dad has always been of the Why do we only have to have one partner?' way of thinking, so they're not at all traditional. My parents were totally surprised and even a little bit freaked out when I told them I was engaged."
Sproule met her husband, the musician Paul Curreri, when she was 18. She was just finishing up a show with a cover of Johnny Cash's I Still Miss Someone when a guy she'd never seen before jumped up on stage and began to sing along.
"He kind of leapt right into the thick of my life," she laughs. "He moved to Charlottesville and would come by my house in the middle of the night and leave four-track recordings of his new songs, a lot of which were written for me, bless his heart. I would find them and listen to them when I woke up.
"I hadn't found my musical voice yet and was, as you would say, well intimidated by Paul artistically. But he was raised in the Catholic Church and he's not so grounded in his body and his everyday life as I am. He struggles a bit more with the uglier, competitive sides of our business because the world isn't actually as magical as the one I think he's privy to."
The tribulations of the independent artist aside, however, Sproule and Curreri's life in Charlottesville sounds pretty damn idyllic. They write music on the porch. They cycle to the downtown mall to watch old-time jazz bands. They tend their little garden, Sproule wearing one of a collection of floppy sunhats ("It makes me feel like I'm at the Kentucky Derby, or in The Great Gatsby") while her husband mows the lawn. "I require him to mow it with his shirt off," she says. "It's his chance to look dashing."
As subject matter for a record, this might all sound strangely commonplace. In fact the details of Sproule's life, captured with just the right mix of poetry, sophistication and cheek, often hold you spellbound.
"I'm kind of surprised how much people like it," she says of Keep Your Silver Shined. "At first it felt like, Is this record just going to get lost? It doesn't have a very unique story'. But I really find that, if I mention the things that we've been talking about on stage, I see people's head nodding. It seems to hit home - if you'll pardon the pun."
- Starts 7.30, tickets £5. Call 01273 680734.