Favours subtle experimentation and imagination over chorus-heavy bluster.
Chris Lo 2011-06-06
It's been more than a decade since Devon Sproule, the acoustic singer-songwriter born on a hippie commune in Ontario, recorded her debut album Devon at the tender age of 16. Still, she has walked the slow road to success, at least on this side of the Atlantic. 2007’s Keep Your Silver Shined proved her quiet breakthrough in the UK, earning her a spot on Later with Jools Holland and winning plaudits among fans of sultry, genre-bending folk-blues.
Musically, Sproule has shifted gradually away from the emotional rawness of early albums like 2001's Long Sleeve Story, settling on immaculately crafted, personal songwriting that favours subtle experimentation and imagination over chorus-heavy bluster. I Love You, Go Easy continues the trend, stuffed to the gills with styles and techniques but put together skilfully enough that it rarely grates. The melancholic piano of the title-track skips, without a beat, into the smoky lounge funk of The Unmarked Animals, which in turn slips into sedate guitar musings on Monk / Monkey.
Jazz, folk, blues and country pass through Sproule's warm lens, all united by the singer's intimate approach and pastoral outlook. As well as effortlessly inhabiting her flock of genre influences, she steps into the shoes of other artists for the album's two covers, bringing a Joni Mitchell-esque vocal elasticity to Mary Margaret O'Hara's Body's in Trouble and effectively paring back the layered vocal harmonies of The Roches' Runs in the Family to a lone vocal backed by plucked guitar lines. As ever, Sproule's voice is front and centre throughout, and for good reason. She sings with an unaffected beauty that comes through the kind of talent that thrives on emotional commitment rather than endless rehearsal. In its ability to make an individual connection with the listener, I Love You, Go Easy is reminiscent of the languid brilliance of Bill Callahan's 2009 highlight Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, his doleful baritone replaced by Sproule's welcoming harmonies.
In a world that demands instant gratification, it's hard to imagine an album like this making its voice heard. Far from asserting itself, it seems to wait for the listener like a friendly whisper, or a conversation just out of earshot. While it might not find itself a massive audience, fans of earthy, charismatic Americana might do well to seek it out for themselves.