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Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

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iTunes Review

If all you knew about Devendra Banhart was his “freak folk” designation, you might expect to hear a strange, shambling, disjointed, whimsical singer-songwriter. And, boy, you’d be right on the money, too. But that’s not the complete picture. There’s beauty, sincerity, mysticism, and genuine creativity at work here as well, providing a necessary counterweight to his more fanciful, indulgent tendencies. Banhart hunkered down in Topanga Canyon with his band and a pawnshop’s orchestra of creaky-sounding instruments to produce his fifth album. It’s not especially difficult to pinpoint the musical era that most delights and inspires him — call it 1968 to 1972 — and one can hear echoes of artists like Donovan, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, and even Jim Morrison. It’s Caetano Veloso, however, who still holds the most sway over Banhart, and Veloso’s intoxicating tropicalismo concoction inculcates tracks like “Cristobal,” “Samba Vexillographica,” and “Carmencita.” Meanwhile, the eight-minute “Seahorse” conjures the bleary-eyed jazz-folk of Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison before hitting a distinctly CSNY-sounding patch of guitar-fueled rock. Spooky yet serene, monumentally weird yet vaguely familiar, Banhart’s music may very well cast a spell on unsuspecting listeners looking for something singular and memorable, if not always profound and moving.

Customer Reviews


Devendra is always on the edge of genius, and so it goes with this record. There's such great lyrical and stylistic diversity and depth here. These songs and his voice have great power over the heart. This is one of my favorite records of this year. My favorite records of 07 are: 1. The Flying Club Cup -Beirut 2. Loss and Love -Son of the Velvet Rat 3. Beautiful Sleepyhead -Emily Wells 4. Song and Void -Richard McGraw 5. YS Joanna Newsome 6. Smokey Rolls -Devendra Banhart

Good, but not his best.

This album has a few really great songs and they are Seahorse, Lover, Tonada Yanomaminista, Shabop Shalom, Carmencita, and My Dearest Friend. The rest are throwaway. This whole album seems very "spacey" and it sounds very echoey and flat out half a$$ed. It is very hard for Devendra to top the amazing Cripple Crow, which this does not. I think this album would sound better however if they dropped the echo and made it sound a little more crisp. So other than the half thought out songs and the poor production quality, this is not that bad of a record.

Growing and Growing

It is beautiful to listen to a Folk artist from the beginning of his "record" career and onwards into his "record" career. From his guitar and Voice to this immaculate album. The great thing about Folk artists is their imagination in istrumentation and Devendra hides no imagination on this one. Flutes- Classical Guitar- ROCK n ROLL. It begins with two songs that take you back to Cripple Crow and Rejoicing in Hands and the "Seahorse" apears. I agree with another Commentator- greatest 8:03 song ever- it weeps and flows and rock and rolls. Everything here is beautiful- Devendra is Growing in his music and he has taken his vitamins!


Born: May 30, 1981 in Houston, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela and Los Angeles, Devendra Banhart was always playing music and drawing. But it wasn't until his brief stay at the San Francisco Art Institute that the disciplines became his constant companions. With the encouragement of poet and SFAI professor Bill Berskon, Banhart began experimenting with all kinds of art. He also began recording songs around that same time, usually on shoddy, hand-me-down four-track machines. Brief, half-finished, or written in stream-of-consciousness...
Full Bio