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…his raw songcraft is terrifyingly effective at communicating the breadth of human emotion… beautiful,damaged,naked and utterly compelling.”- THE WIRE
“The quaver in Mr. Banhart’s voice is as shaky as his songs’ connection to everyday reality…his songs and fragments ponder animals, apparitions, logical leaps and childlike certainties, all with credible eccentricity.”- THE NEW YORK TIMES #2 ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF 2002
“It’s been awhile since an obsessive, naïve, utterly original musical visionary…emerged from a private sanctum into the embrace of the rock cognoscenti. But we’ve got one now.” -THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
“He possesses a warble I won’t soon forget, and if that isn’t the mark of a classic balladeer I don’t know what is… If part of a folk singer’s power comes from the purity of his conviction, then Banhart’s promising debut is the sign of someone destined for great, strange things.” – WWW.PITCHFORKMEDIA.COM
2 years ago I first heard the crude home made recordings of Devendra Banhart, then a homeless, wandering, neo psych/folk hippie artist and musician, not yet 21 years old. We released these recordings on YGR because we’d never heard anything quite like them, ever. His voice – a quivering high-tension wire, sounded like it could have been recorded 70 years ago – these songs could have been sitting in someone’s attic, left there since the 1930’s. The response was astounding . Devendra soon moved here to NYC (from SF), where he lived in squats, couch-surfed, and finally found himself a home (very recently), suddenly riding a tidal wave of press acclaim, 3 or 4 US tours, tours in Europe, a special feature on NPR (for God’s sake) – in short, a seismic shift in his fortunes. He’s the most genuine, least cynical and calculated artist I’ve ever known, and he deserves every bit of the good things now coming his way. He’s also one of the most innately talented, magical performers I have ever heard. Period. He GIVES. This kind of generosity and breadth of emotion is all too rare these days. Whether the songs are pained, twisted, whimsical, or even sometimes weirdly silly, aside from being fantastically musical and expertly played, they are also utterly sincere, and devoid of a single drop of post modern irony. In short, he’s the real thing.
When it came time to record new music we were of course faced with the quandary of how to go about it – does he continue making hiss-saturated home recordings, or do we go into a “professional” studio? We mutually decided that it was best to move on – why should he be ghetto-ized as a possible low-fi crank/eccentric? Besides, his songwriting and his guitar playing (in my opinion) have taken such leaps and bounds forward, that we were compelled to record them in a way that made it possible to really hear the performances clearly. Out of nowhere, the perfect situation arose. Lynn Bridges, who works with Jimmy Johnson (of Mussel Shoals fame – Bob Dylan, The Band etc etc…) contacted us and invited us down to his house on the Alabama/Georgia border, where we recorded 32 songs (culled from something like 57 Devendra had initially submitted!) in his living room, using the best possible vintage gear. Ideal. Devendra sat on his stool in that living room for 10 days, 12 hours a day, and played, constantly. We set up a mic for his voice, a few on his guitar, and one or two in the room (an old, Georgia-style southern house with tall ceilings, wood floors etc.), and that’s what you hear, for the most part, on these recordings (along with the occasional chorus of cicadas, when we happened to be recording at night, with the windows open). Then, we took these recordings to NYC and added a few overdubs here and there, played by a host of musicians (The song Rejoicing in the Hands features a tender duet with the legendary 60’s English Pop Singer gamin (and one of Devendra’s idols) Vashti Bunyan)…Deciding on the final arrangements was ridiculously easy – the songs were so good in their raw state that there was no need to bolster them with sonic fluff or cheap impact. So, there’s a few sounds entering and leaving at will here and there, but hopefully they simply set a context. The important thing is always Devendra’s performance, and his uncanny ability to transport us, through story/words, and some pretty amazing finger-pickin’ (!), just using his acoustic guitar and voice. I consider him to be an antidote, maybe even a sort of narcotic – that rare case where you feel like you’re coming home when you listen to a piece of music…
– Michael Gira / Young God Records/2004