Devon Sproule

Live In London

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Devon Sproule's not only one of the finest roots-folk songwriters to emerge in the last decade, she's also a tremendously charming live performer. So there's plenty good cause for a document of the young Virginian in action, and the U.K. -- where she's perversely managed to attract a much larger following than in her home country -- is an appropriate venue for it (even if, given how vividly and specifically Sproule's songwriting draws from her Southern small-town experience, a recording of a hometown Charlottesville gig might be even more fitting.) This release, compiled from a couple of 2009 performances with a strong supporting band including legendary pedal steel player B.J. Cole, offers just about all fans could ask for from such a proposition: faithful but gorgeously loose recastings of several of her best songs, a generous smattering of covers, and a bit of characteristically personable banter. Of course, that said, this is hardly a replacement for catching Sproule in person, and neither does it supersede her excellent studio recordings. Newcomers will find plenty to enjoy here, but they'd be even better served with any of her three previous albums -- especially 2007's Keep Your Silver Shined, though each is stellar in its own right. The CD portion of Live in London contains two originals from each of those three albums, including a lovely, extended rendition of her 2003 masterpiece "Plea for a Good Night's Rest," and is rounded out with five covers, among which are some of the finest treats here. Along with her lively bluegrass take on the traditional "Weeping Willow" and her curious, slinky reading of Black Uhuru's "Sponji Reggae" (both previously recorded), she features two excellent songs written by friends: Megan Huddleston's deliciously dark, murderous "One Eye Open," and Matty Charles' "Steady and True," a wonderfully tender love song that could easily pass for an old-time folk chestnut. There's also an unlisted encore rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," done as a sparse and wistful duet with her husband (and guitarist) Paul Curreri; a re-creation, as she explains here, of the first night they met. The DVD portion of this package, while worth a look for fans, is definitely more of a bonus than a selling point in itself: it's a 45-minute film containing eight songs -- only three of which are not duplicated on the CD, including "I Wanna Die in My Shoes," a funky new co-composition with Curreri and an amusing back story -- well performed, but somewhat amateurishly, "artfully" shot (with an excess of quick cuts, extreme close-ups, and odd camera angles) and intercut with obnoxiously nonsensical "tour footage."

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