Devendra Banhart

Rockpile #105 | by MAGGIE SEROTA

Rejoicing in the Hands

Lately, it has become rather difficult to pick up a music magazine and not find Devendra Banhart's handsome, artfully disheveled mug somewhere within the pages.
Since the release of his 2002 debut, Oh Me, Oh My, critics have been beside themselves over his unique brand of gritty, soulful, folk music. In addition to his lyrical complexity and agile acoustic plucking, his work resonates with the strained, aching vibrato of his vocal style. Imagine the plucking of a tight violin string crossed with the warbled moaning of a 60-year-old woman and you have some idea.
„I try to imitate the raping of a weasel," Banhart quips between sips of carrot juice. „Or the sodomizing of a chicken."
That being said, the love affair among critics and fans alike continues with the release of 2004's Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God Records), and rightfully so. At barely 23 years of age, Banhart has been covered by legendary British folk singer Bridget St. John, collaborated with the equally iconic Vashti Bunyan, been featured on NPR and ultimately created a body of work belying the raw sincerity and maturity of an artist three times his age. If that wasn‚t impressive enough, the prolific Banhart has yet another album, entitled Nino Rojo, slated for release this September.
Banhart credits this sage-like sensibility to his relocation from Texas to Caracas, Venezuela, with his mother at the age of three. Here he spent the next 12 years as a witness to the poverty and violence that typified life in the third world and continues to haunt him.
„Caracas was dangerous and closed-minded, but beautiful and extremely tense," Banhart reflects, „You witness such atrocious things."
However, when invoking the word mature, Banhart is inclined to disagree. He describes his latest album as a gift to the children, which he describes as the nine-year-olds and the 90-year-olds.
It's not for those in between, however. „They have enough music."
Whatever you say, Devendra.