Rejoicing in the Hands

Mojo | by Bob Mehr

16 track classic from former San Francisco art student turned NYC troubadour; second volume follows in September

Although not clinically disturbed like fellow American outsider artists Daniel Johnston and the late Wesley Willis, 22-year-old Devendra Banhart is an unreconstructed oddball by anyone's standards. Since being discovered by Swans' leader Michael Gira in 2001, Banhart's bizarro press interviews and onstage antics have earned as much attention as his seemingly endless catalogue of fractured acoustic narratives and blues miniatures. After a pair of charmingly crude home recorded efforts, the hirsute singer-songwriter's latest pairs him with Southern studio hand Lynn Bridges and expands the sonic palette considerably - adding strings, keyboards and percussion - yet manages to retain the same woozily intimate quality as its predecessors. Casually referencing early Marc Bolan, Bryter Layter-era Nick Drake and a clutch of loping Morricone film scores, Banhart wraps his songs in a gorgeously quavering warble that seems lifted right off some blues mama's dusty 78. A nearly flawless set of left-field folk.