Rosalind Knight reports on Devon Sproule - Cambridge Folk Festival, 3 Aug 2008

devon sproule
44th Cambridge Folk Festival

Devon Sproule, a singer-songwriter from Ontario, entertained audiences this weekend with her bluesy tunes and quirky banter. She was a strange figure, hopping and bouncing across the stage, clutching a guitar which was almost twice her size. Someone asked me how a twelve-year-old had done so well on the folk scene. In fact, she was born in 1982 to hippy parents in a commune. Can't get much more folk in your roots than that. She currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and her performance really did transport you from a rainy field in Cambridge to a ranch or mountain top.

Playing acoustic guitar, Sproule was accompanied by a clarinet and some strings. She readily admitted that her band had improvised their parts five minutes before they came on stage, which certainly showed, but their improvisations worked in her favour.

Sproule played songs from her latest album, Keep Your Silver Shined, which she describes as her ‘getting married album.' This would explain the lyrics, which were domestic, sweet and often funny, talking about everything from clothes drawers and trousers to running out of food and being ‘plum sick of peanut butter.' Her homely lyrics and southern drawl were engaging and seemed to please the whole crowd, which ranged from grandparents to five year-olds.

Sproule's self-penned music is generally upbeat and jazzy. It's typical of the kind played in vintage clothes shops, recalling a bygone era of jazz, and cigarettes in slender holders. Her website supports this with vintage-style photos and slide shows. This is easy listening with a unique style, which I found endearing and whimsical. It might not be everybody's thing, but I think if Sproule focuses on the jazzy tunes, she should get even more people humming and bouncing along to her next album.

Writer: Rosalind Knight

Photo: Claire Borley