Striking the opening chords to the evening on her beautiful old 1954 Gibson ES-125 guitar, Devon Sproule sets in motion a glorious sequence of 26 shows over the next ten week period for the local live music promoter Please Please You. This remarkable run will see Joe Coates – the man who is Please Please You – regularly zipping back and forth along the A64 between his hometown of York and Leeds as well as heading west over the Pennines and up North on the A19 to put on gigs in Manchester and Newcastle respectively.
Joe Coates has an unerring ability to bring us acts that are largely unheard of, unheralded or buried so deep underground that only those who truly have their finger on the seismic contemporary musical pulse are even remotely aware of their existence. But what all of these artists do have in common is an indubitable and often quite amazing talent which for reasons that defy any real rhyme or reason sees them flying well below the radar of any more widespread appeal or far greater commercial recognition.
Despite having had a recording career that now stretches back the best part of two decades – one that has spawned a series of critically acclaimed albums – the Canadian-born singer-songwriter Devon Sproule is perhaps one such musician. But little does she seem to care for the trappings of success, exuding through the warmth of her persona and the dozen songs that she plays here tonight a quiet assurance and contentment in what would appear to be the simpler things in life.
Whilst Sproule is able to see all of life’s madness that unfolds before us on an almost daily basis, through a combination of her serenity and spirit she is able to float above it. Her songs possess those central elements of quiet determination and understated eloquence. Joined here by Rory Haye on bass guitar and harmony vocals, she showcases a number of songs from her latest album, The Gold String.
With its spartan melody, the new record’s title song (its first words having been written on Shetland, where the current UK tour ends in just over a week’s time) sees Sproule gravitate back towards the familiarity of the natural world around her; ‘More Together’ reflects upon the unification of people, joyously brought together by a shared purpose; and her Tin Angel Records stablemate Ed Askew’s ‘Drawing Circles’ is a delightfully late night smoky jazz club interlude.
After an exquisite interpretation of ‘Superstar’ – much nearer to Delaney and Bonnie’s earthy original than the perfect pop sheen of The Carpenters’ version, Sproule and Haye are joined for ‘Trees At Your Mom’s’ by Baby Copperhead the NYC-folkie who had earlier delivered a fine supporting set full of Walt Whitman humanism and banjo-driven charm.
Devon Sproule takes her leave with ‘You Can Come Home’. Taken from her previous album Colours – a collaborative effort with Mike O’Neill of Canadian indie band, Inbreds – the song highlights Sproule’s ability to move effortlessly from tonight’s hitherto jazz and folk infusions and into something altogether far more soulful and rock’n’roll. If tonight is to be the yardstick by which we are to measure the next 25 shows in Please Please You’s spring Programme of events then we are most surely in for something of a treat.
Photo credit: Simon Godley
More pictures from this show can be found HERE
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