Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Devendra Banhart

Devendra Banhart has been on the outskirts of my musical radar for a few years now, but he had not come to the forefront until I recently listened to his highly anticipated new album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon due out on Sept. 25 on XL Recordings. He always seemed more on the fringes of indie-folk than another one of my favorites Iron & Wine (probably because of this track #11). Mr. Banhart keeps a firm grasp on that fringe with this new album. I don't mean Devendra isn't accessible, just that he's not as accessible as an Iron & Wine record (The Shepherd's Dog comes out the same day...coincidence?). Mr. Banhart's recordings rarely sound studio polished, his stream-of-consciousness stories can be strange, and his arrangements usually sparse. His songs come in different forms, and he really doesn't cater to label demands. This freedom of expression comes through vividly on the new album as it did on his first XL Recordings release Cripple Crow. Where Cripple Crow marked a departure from his comfort zone, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon seems like a return to form, with a musical vision reborn and manifested in refreshing ways. Smokey sees Devendra ranging from intimate folk tunes to epic electric rock. There is so much raw energy projected through this album that it's worth revisiting Mr. Banhart's back catalog to hear his progression as an artist. For now, enjoy one of the new (maybe more obscure) tracks from Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

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