Left Your Guitar in San Francisco? | by Alec Hanley Bemis

The latest from Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, and other odd fixtures of the new Bay Area folk scene.

Devendra Banhart is part of an odd renaissance of Northern California singer-songwriters—odd because a dozen or so of them seem to be deriving influence, simultaneously, from some highly idiosyncratic common source. These artists mix unvarnished production and folk melodies with lyrics that emphasize free love, hallucinatory visions, and various other topics any stoner, hippie, or earth mother could relate to. Think of it as a folk music analog to the garage rock revival. The 23-year-old Banhart is the most precocious of the bunch—the first to gain national attention and possibly the most talented. On "This Is the Way," Banhart's warbling voice recalls both Cat Stevens and the delicate wail of a Depression-era blueswoman. Like most of Banhart's work, this song rambles a bit: "This is the sound that swims inside me," he taunts, "that circle sound is what surrounds me." Is he talking about yogic breathing? Smoking a hookah? It's unclear, but captivating nonetheless.