devendra banhart

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Findlay Brown; Separated by the Sea (PeaceFrog) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Findlay Brown; Separated by the Sea (PeaceFrog) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Earnest young men of the Anglo-folk persuasion aren't exactly thin on the ground these days, but Brown is worth your attention. His voice is gentle but has some depth and restrained power, and if his lyrics stray sometimes into that self-obsession/broken love/"darkness of the soul and mind" axis then that pretty much comes with this...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (SunPop/Rhythmethod)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (SunPop/Rhythmethod)

Sam Beam -- who is Iron and Wine -- really sounds like he has hits his stride with this exceptional, engaging and folkadelic outing, and he's achieved that by just continuing on the same, mildly eccentric and determined path as he has taken on his previous albums and EPs. This time however the songs sound more full and fully formed, the array...

Devendra Banhart: Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (XL)

Devendra Banhart: Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (XL)

Widely credited as the figurehead of the neo-folk movement (which owes more to early jazzy folk-rocking Donovan than Dylan in its encompassing vision and musical ambition), Texas-born Banhart has delivered a series of fascinating albums notable for their diversity. Drawing on traditional folk, world music and trippy psychedelic styles (and...

Various: Song of America (Split Rock/Southbound)

Various: Song of America (Split Rock/Southbound)

This beautifully packaged 3-CD set (with explanatory booklet) is doubtless very useful as a teaching aid in American schools: it is a chronological collection from a Lakota dream song through colonial period and Civil War songs, to Depression Era laments for the parched land and Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? then into the civil rights period...

THE BAND; ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE BOX SET (1994): Genius all boxed up . . . or maybe not all.

THE BAND; ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE BOX SET (1994): Genius all boxed up . . . or maybe not all.

For the record, I turned off the Band around the period they hit the cover of Time magazine in January 1970 - which is to say I never really got into them. This is no brag that when they went commercial I bailed out, more like that guy who yelled “Judas” at Bob Dylan when he plugged in. Just a case of woeful stupidity....

JUDEE SILL (1944-79): The disappearing crayon angel

JUDEE SILL (1944-79): The disappearing crayon angel

There seem an alarming number of women musicians written out of popular culture: Doris Troy, Minnie Ripperton, Laura Nyro, Judy Henske, Mireille Mathieu, folk-rocker Cindy Lee Berryhill . . . And who these days even cites Janis Joplin either as an influence, or simply as someone worthy of serious critical or popular attention? These (and...

Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring (Shock)

Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring (Shock)

Beauty is not a quality that popular music (ie pop, rock, r'n'b, indie-rock or whatever) places much store in: yet from the Velvet Underground through Mazzy Star and the early Cowboy Junkies to the Fleet Foxes, or from Eno to the landscape of guitars in Explosions in the Sky, there has been beauty aplenty. Beauty need not be sentimental...

Kath Bloom: Thin Thin Line (Caldo Verde)

Kath Bloom: Thin Thin Line (Caldo Verde)

Although this wobbly-voiced American folkie has been around since the late Seventies I confess I have never heard/heard of her. On a first hearing I can't say I think I missed much: vocally she comes off like a shaky-voiced version of Daniel Johnston and Yoko Ono (when Ono gets in "ballad" mode). Notes are there but sometimes a...

The Incredible String Band: Wee Tam and The Big Huge (1968)

The Incredible String Band: Wee Tam and The Big Huge (1968)

Sometimes for my own private amusement I will sing aloud The Incredible String Band's The Son of Noah's Brother in its entirety. All 16 seconds of it. The lyrics run, "Many were the lifetimes of the son of Noah's brother, see his coat the ragged riches of his soul". And that's it: a lovely descending melody and not a wasted...

Bonnie Prince Billy and The Cairo Gang: The Wonder Show of the World (Palace)

Bonnie Prince Billy and The Cairo Gang: The Wonder Show of the World (Palace)

My guess is that because Bonnie Prince Billy aka Will Oldham aka Palace aka Palace Brothers etc has done so many albums that, like Woody Allen movies and local buses, you can afford to miss one because another will be along soon. This low-key, mostly acoustic outing framed by Neil Young-styled folk and Billy's default position of analytical...

THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: Away with the faeries and poets

THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: Away with the faeries and poets

Unexpected people are into the Incredible String Band: Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin you can understand, given LedZepp played a kind of Anglofolk/Tolkein thing alongside their hijacking of black blues and other hoary riffs. But bristling DIY post-punk Chris Knox speaking highly of this slightly fey Scottish folk group who pioneered the...

The Album Leaf: A Chorus of Storytellers (SubPop)

The Album Leaf: A Chorus of Storytellers (SubPop)

This quiet, mostly instrumental and discreetly seductive album by a band with a very confusing name has been slipping back into the player quite a lot recently -- and I suspect it came out a few months ago, but I've only belatedly discovered it. The Album Leaf has been the on-going project of the San Diego-based songwriter Jimmy LaValle whose...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD)

The previous album The Shepherd's Dog by Texas' Iron and Wine (Sam Beam) was fully three years ago and was one of the Best of Elsewhere 2007 albums. So anticipation is high for this -- although might have been higher a year ago, but I guess he works at his own pace. And we forgive him because he delivered the excellent Around the Well...

Espers: Espers II (EMI)

Espers: Espers II (EMI)

This alt.folk-cum-ambient rock outfit from Philadelphia look like they have stepped out of 1969: they are all hair, beards and hippieness -- and I swear one of the women is wearing a poncho. I suspect they smell of patchouli. So it's no surprise they have performed with the Incredible String Band (whom I thought split in about '72) and...

Karen Dalton: In My Own Time (Light in the Attic/Global Routes)

Karen Dalton: In My Own Time (Light in the Attic/Global Routes)

Dalton, who died in 93, was one of the leading lights in the New York folk scene in the early 60s and was much admired by Bob Dylan. The track Katie's Been Gone on Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes is allegedly about her, and Nick Cave's When I First Came To Town was inspired by her. Cave, neo-folkie Devendra Banhart, Fred Neil and many...

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