Devendra Banhart is an unlikely figure for mainstream deification, but his third album, Rejoicing in the Hands
--the first for forward-thinking British independent XL--proves that appearances can be deceptive. Previous albums by this shaggy-haired ex-hobo have found him shunning upmarket studios and session musicians, preferring to perform his eerie folk lullabies unaccompanied and unadorned, the results recorded onto hissy tape-decks. Given this, Rejoicing...
is an upping of the ante--its 16 songs were captured on high-quality vintage equipment in the living room of a house in Alabama with occasional overdubs of piano and guitar, yet the spirit remains largely the same: hushed, haunted, but always sparking with ideas.
At heart, Banhart is much more a storyteller than a confessional songwriter--a fact that suits his flexible technique: that's why one minute, he sounds like a reedy-voiced Appalachian folk-singer, finger-picking a banjo on the porch of a rural mountain shack, and the next, on "This Beard is for Siobhan", he's curling his lip like T Rex's Marc Bolan and hollering about having "a real good time". Banhart's approach may sometimes appear wilfully amateurish--hear how he goofs the first take of "Todolos Dolores", then recommences, tape still rolling--but this is accomplished, genuinely timeless stuff. --Louis Pattison