I want to tell you a story (bare with me here)...several years ago I found myself in a record shop in Amsterdam, I forget the name (I'll leave you to figure out why) holding two cds in my hand with only enough cash for one. The first was The Dandy Warhols Welcome to the Monkey House, a band I know quite well and enjoy, in other words the safe option. The second was Banhart's Oh Me Oh My.. of which I'd only read a few scant reviews (all of which praised its charm). Unfortunatly (or perhaps fortunatly) the only listening station was knackered. In the end, after much prolonged and fuddled wondering I chose the latter.
Now I'm used to lo-fi but this dude took the biscuit, the majority of songs recorded on knackered dictaphones or his answering machine, background noise hiss and static all audible in the mix - yes it was rough. But his unique voice wove its charm and pretty soon I was entranced. Songs like Cosmos and Demos sounded like they were beamed in from some far flung corner of Lewis Carroll's brain, on Nice People, hell, I haven't heard anyone sound that demented since Syd Barrett on The Madcap Laughter - here, I thought to myself, we are witnessing the musical birth of a true maverick.
Two equally glorious albums later (man this guy's prolific!) and now we are blessed with Cripple Crow, delivered with love all the way from Woodstock. The front cover artwork alone speaks volumes, reminiscent of The Incredible String Band's 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' (by the by, if you're a Devendra fan already check them out - they're a fitting reference point for the music he makes).
So to the songs, and what joyous little ditties they are! Devendra showed signs of expanding his range on its predecessor Nino Rojo with the shambling rock shanty romp of Be Kind and the kazoo freak-out that closed We All Know. However, on Cripple Crow he's really set sail. Fans of his earlier spectral-like folk shouldn't be disheartened though, some of the strongest ones on the album follow this vein, in particular the title track (my personal fave) and the charming Hey Mama Wolf.
What gives this album its colour though is its sense of playfulness and warping of other styles - the psychotic doo-wop of Little Boys (with its rather unsettling lyrics), the way The Beatles starts as quite conventional folk and is suddenly sidetracked by a mariarchi samba band, Chinese Children's spangly glam rock I could go on and on. The tracks in Spanish are equally fantastic, he gave us a taster on Rejoicing in the Hands with one of its strongest tracks Todos los Dolores and I'm glad to report he follows it up here. Despite the fact I have an extremely limited (ie. no) understanding of the language, the way the words trip off his tongue, his whole pronunciation is a joy to hear and makes my lack of comprehension irrelevant.
Right, I've probably bored you now for long enough, you either walked away shaking your head thinking 'wot's that nutter on about eh?' long ago or you're busy putting the album in your basket. Either way makes no difference to me - I already know he's great!