Banhart Devendra: Nino Rojo

Ultimate Guitar

...a folk music long lost in the depths of time & tribal memory

Sound: I can honestly say to you that I have never heard anything like Devendra Banhart - the entire album features nothing but him and an acoustic guitar with the occasional hippie friend lending a friendly double bass or harmonica. Having grown up in Venezuala with nobody to teach him anything of guitar technique, Banhart has developed his own unique style, a darkly beautiful sound reminiscent not of the fifties/sixties america that is so popular among acoustic performers, but of a folk music long lost in the depths of time & tribal memory.

The album, like it's predecessors "Rejoicing In The Hands" and "Oh Me Oh My" has been treated with the greatest respect to Banhart's pure tone and resonance; unlike most of the over-produced and orchestra-smothered albums pouring out of the shops these days. Nino Rojo maintains a natural feel, originating from the unconventional choice of recording studio - producer Michael Gira's living room. As for the music itself, the melodies are inspired and moving, but short. Many of the songs only play for no more than 2 minutes, although there are a sufficient number of longer tracks that save the record from becoming bitty and detached. [5]

Lyrics: Devendra Banhart is one acoustic guitarist you won't find lamenting the loss of his girlfriend; no, other things are on this hippie's mind. His lyrics delve into the mystic, the ridiculous and the deranged, but I dare anyone to listen to this record and not feel themselves drawn into his strange celebration of the simple self. As you would expect from his unconventional playing methods and recording practices, Banhart is no ordinary vocalist. He counts in almost every song and accompanies his music with a quivering and tender voice that matches his trickling guitar perfectly. He misses his cues and notes frequently, but you tend to forget that when his crackly voice soars and dives so pleasantly. Needless to say, Nino Rojo isn't really a record for Frank Sinatra fans. [5]

Overall Impression: There really aren't any other artists who could even imagine doing what Devendra Banhart has done in Nino Rojo. Being an indie artist, he doesn't get much attention from the press or other artists/bands in the industry. Nino Rojo is his declaration that he simply doesn't care. Amazing songs like "At The Hop" and "Little Yellow Spider" are there for whoever is looking; as it is, being the only person you know who is even aware of his existence is quite satisfying. Banhart keeps the whole album connected somehow; this is not just a collection of individual songs, this is a true record.

The songs could really do with being longer than a minute, and perhaps a properly printed lyric sheet would help first-time listeners keep up with Banhart's erratic (but brilliant)lyrics. Apart from that, I can find little to fault in Nino Rojo. As I said before, these wonderful songs are there for anyone who's looking for them; record stores tend not to put his records in very prominent places, so go looking for Nino Rojo and it's companion album of earlier this year, Rejoicing In The Hands - you won't be disappointed. [5]