Devendra Banhart | Rejoicing in the Hands

Crutch Magazine | by Robbie Mackey

His magical ability to create rich, striking music

I stood in the middle of the room, a glass of cheap jug wine in my hand. The music perspiring from the speakers hissed with a certain worn authenticity. With an incisive age. And as the acoustic guitar line tripped over itself, as the caterwauling partition of voices trembled high above, I fell for Devendra Banhart and his beautifully peculiar 2002 debut, Oh Me Oh My.

The story was simple: M. Gira had "discovered" him, a traveling troubadour on the streets of San Francisco, and quickly released a collection of capricious vignettes culled from the library of material Banhart had penned over the years. Recorded on broken four-tracks and answering machines, Oh Me Oh My. was remarkably skeletal in nature, yet compelling in its bony incompleteness.

Naturally, then, Banhart's sophomore release, Rejoicing In The Hands - recorded on professional equipment, and trimly produced - is an exquisitely jarring experience. The focus is no longer on the unwieldy four-track hiss, but on the realization of Banhart's music - the not-so-tacit tribute he pays to the pastoral work of Vashti Bunyan, who guests on the album's title track, and the crack-folk vagary of The Incredible String Band, whose fanciful guitar work and freewheeling melodies saturate much of Rejoicing.

"This Is The Way" opens the album with a weightless guitar line and Banhart's wavering troll, dabbed with his characteristic whimsy. This wide-eyed naivety is one of the only holdovers from 2002's Oh Me Oh My.

Indeed, the forgivable sameyness of his debut is gone, as Banhart takes care to dabble playfully in his influences: sunburned psychedelia on "When The Sun Shone On Vetiver," off-kilter Dixie-rag on "This Beard Is For Sibohan," Spanish folk on "Todos Los Dolores," and the music of rural England on the aforementioned Bunyan collaboration.

And all the while, Banhart is absolutely captivating, clearly proving his worth as much more than a novelty savant in the modern musical landscape. While Oh Me Oh My showcased the endearingly chaotic work of a crackpot genius, Rejoicing In The Hands emphasizes Banhart's undeniable gift for songwriting, and his magical ability to create rich, striking music.