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long sleeve story
Devon
Long Sleeve Story
Three Word Recordings

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Seen the Dave Matthews Band lately? You'll probably be aware of Devon, then; the singer has played the second stage of the band's amphitheatre tours, getting the sort of attention that most bands would kill for. With that kind of backing -- Stefan Lessard, the DMB's bass player produced this, her second album -- it's not surprising that Long Sleeve Story is a polished affair. The opener, "25 MPH", features some slinky guitar, a chorus to die for and some subtle scratching work, reminding the listener that this is a recent release. It's also a good indicator of the rest of the album; it's flash and sounds nifty, but seems to trail off a bit towards the end.

I hate to say it, but Devon's songs do, to a degree, remind me of Ani DiFranco. They seem to share a showiness -- particularly in "Sleep Satisfied", which features car crash-instigation -- though this is by no means a bad thing. The similarity is there, but Devon's voice seems different enough to avoid any copycat labeling. Sometimes, though, there seems to be a little bit too much poutiness in the vocals; conversational lyrics seem to come across a bit better when this is nixed -- which happens fairly promptly, thankfully. This is honest, approachable stuff, and if songs like "What I'm Used To" are picked up by mainstream radio, there's no telling how big Devon could get.

Devon is most powerful when the music is slowed down a little and moved away from the sometimes-forced showiness of other tracks. "Keep Light"'s tale of drifting from place to place, and the soundscapey "Way Up Here", showcase her vocal ability and songwriting skill a lot better than some of the disc's bouncier tracks. "Let Me In On It", however, plays it even straighter, adding the trumpet stylings of former Miles Davis sideman John D'earth, producing a jaunty tale that has one foot in the Squirrel Nut Zippers' territory. It's an easy piece, but one that shows how comfortable Devon seems to be with styles that veer from straight folk -- which is where, to be frank, I had this album pegged when I first saw it. I'm pleased to have my initial opinions reversed. Not perfect, but better than most.

-- Luke Martin
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