DEVENDRA BANHART > Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

For the follow-up to 2005’s Cripple Crow, Devendra Banhart moved himself to Topanga Canyon in the mountains of Santa Monica for a pyschedelic pow-wow with right hand man Noah Georgeson in tow and a parade of guests including Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), Nick Valensi (The Strokes), and actor Gael Garcia Bernal adding vocals to the duet opener, “Cristobal.”Label: BEGGARS/XL
[RATING: 3]

For the follow-up to 2005’s Cripple Crow, Devendra Banhart moved himself to Topanga Canyon in the mountains of Santa Monica for a pyschedelic pow-wow with right hand man Noah Georgeson in tow and a parade of guests including Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), Nick Valensi (The Strokes), and actor Gael Garcia Bernal adding vocals to the duet opener, “Cristobal.” As usual, Devendra flexes his multi-lingual muscle on several tracks and music styles are all over the map from the pop folk of “So Long Old Bean” to the gospel choir-backed “Saved.” The tropicalia-soul hybrid “Carmencita” is straight out of the Os Mutantes songbook. (Notice to the bar mitzvah DJs of the world: the doo-wop heavy “Shabop Shalom” will absolutely kill at your next gig!)

Smokey drags a bit on snoozers like the dreary “Seaside” or the Valium-induced dub of “The Other Woman,” but these melancholy moments are balanced out by the space-rock of “Tonada Yanomaninista” and the sunshine-funk of “Lover.” The eight-minute suite “Seahorse,” which begins with lyrics on finding inner peace over some acoustic fingerpicking and quickly evolves into a nice piano-driven samba, culminates with Devendra channeling Jim Morrison over the grooviest jam I’ve heard in a great long while.

Overall, Smokey is a dense, intricate album that becomes more alluring with each listen. Perhaps it could use some editing, but like the rest of Banhart’s oeuvre, the album makes a definitive statement about embracing Dionysian excess, which, as far as I can tell, generally frowns upon editing oneself.


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