CULTURE- BUZZBOX- Getting comfy: Sproule and Curreri's efforts pay off

Devon Sproule first shared Keep Your Silver Shined with The Hook during the spring of 2006 for the annual music issue, explaining that it told the story of her engagement to fellow Charlottesville songwriter Paul Curreri, their marriage, and the welcome monotony of married life. "That's kind of the theme of the record: feeling good about Virginia and settling down," she says.

Then the CD release was unexpectedly postponed until March. March 2007, that is.

"Because it takes me so long to write each one, for better or for worse the songs tend to sound different," she explains. "So finding a way to make this record sound cohesive took some fiddling."

That included making last-minute tweaks to the arrangement, mastering and re-mastering (a total of six attempts!), and shopping it around to labels, an endeavor that ultimately proved fruitless. "People still think shopping a record around is a good idea," she says, "but record labels don't know what to do with themselves. I got a couple of good offers, but nothing worth giving up the independence or the money."

It's a level of determination that she says she wouldn't be capable of without Curreri by her side– despite her early start as one of Charlottesville's most promising songwriters.

"When I was a teenager, I didn't have a comfortable relationship with music," she says, "and now I do. When I was younger, I told the people I dated that music was the most important thing to me, but I didn't really prioritize it. Now that I'm with someone who absolutely prioritizes it, it gives me the space to do that too."

And she promises that she is doing it, even if it still takes her about a month to write a song.

Curreri says that it's typically worth the wait. "I think in the time she wrote the 12 for Keep Your Silver Shined, she only wrote one that didn't work," he marvels. "She hits the bullseye almost every time."

Curreri, on the other hand, tends to bang out a lot more compositions– and throw away a lot more as well. He estimates there were upwards of 25 songs to choose from when compiling his new album, The Velvet Rut, which he'll be releasing a week after Sproule's.

After months of aimless writing and recording, he says, "It just occurred to me that I had been recording a lot of music for three or four months, so I just looked at all the tracks to see if I'd been making anything decent or cohesive." And, squinting really hard, he found that he did see the outline of a record.

"It was especially cohesive because I had written it so quickly," he says– every track is the result of a late night flood and was complete almost before he knew he was writing it. In many cases, he says, the songs were written and recorded in one night and then never played again.

The artwork for The Velvet Rut includes a jagged drawing of a man in distress; Curreri says he was in bad condition emotionally and creatively until he started putting the album together. "It sort of saved Paul's life," says Sproule, "because he was not doing so great before that– not feeling creative, trying different antidepressants, and that sort of thing. As soon as we got those speakers up, he was in there all day every day, feeling better and making music."  

"And now he's off the meds," she adds.

Shimmers of iconic African guitarist Ali Farka Touré show up occasionally on songs like "The Wasp," and he's mentioned by name in the lyrics to "Loretta." Curreri says this was part of a deliberate musical attempt to rouse himself.

"There was a solid year where I intentionally tried to listen to music that seemed to be enveloped by a sense of goodness," he says, specifically naming Black Uhuru, Bob Marley, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk. "It doesn't have to be positive as in 'Hey, go water your flowers and sit in the sun. It's positive as in, 'Life is passing, let's take advantage of it.'"

 Catch Devon Sproule at the Gravity Lounge Saturday, March 17 (8pm $10) and Paul Curreri there Friday, March 23 (7pm, $8).