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Devon Sproule - I Love You, Go Easy (Tin Angel)

Star rating: 

Devon Sproule's latest collection of songs were initially presented to me in their entirety one after the other in a raw acoustic form, making up the entire final set in an intimate house concert. The set came across as an unashamed outpouring of emotion, whilst the singer maintained a stoic composure throughout, delivering some of her most personal songs to date. The songs seemed to address two specific events, that of celebrating five years of marriage, good times and not so good, as well as losing a personal friend to cancer. The honesty in the writing together with the almost matter-of-fact approach in conveying some of the author's most personal thoughts reminded me of early Joni Mitchell and got me considering, perhaps prematurely, is I LOVE YOU, GO EASY Devon Sproule's Blue?

The ambiguous cover shot of an excited Westie jumping around the garden in the midday sun doesn't suggest an album of painful self-probing, nor does the joyful leaping around of Devon Sproule on the inner sleeve, but alarm bells seemed to ring upon first hearing these songs. These are specific songs, not general. Twin Oaks, the commune where Devon grew up is mentioned in The Unmarked Animals and friends are named elsewhere on the album. 

Devon eases us into the songs with If I Can Do This, directing the listener to the part of the pond where the terror bathers are on God's acres. The lyrics are at times delightfully ambiguous and therefore utterly compelling, whilst at other times quite the contrary, almost direct and to the point. In The Warning Bell for example, we see a songwriter addressing the very nature of her art, possibly pondering the sustainability of her craft, whilst at the same time considering the status of her personal relationships. Some of us don't hear the warning bells until it's too late. Perhaps those early bells help us consider and maintain our direction and focus.    

The title song sees Sproule at her most vulnerable, the fragility of her voice almost a cry for help. Reminiscent of some of Robert Wyatt's most sublime work, I Love You, Go Easy incorporates a subtle jazz arrangement with an almost tortured vocal performance. The two soul searching 'body' songs that run back to back, The Faulty Body and Body's In Trouble, are given a joyful reprieve as the album draws to a close with the optimistic and uplifting Now's the Time, which is one of the few hopeful moments on the album. With one additional hidden and un-named bonus song, the album closes with a whole bunch of unanswered questions. Perhaps we don't need to know the answers, a bit like Blue really.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky