Devendra Banhart Cripple Crow

The free spirited young man we’ve come to know as Devendra Banhart is maturing at an alarming rate. As if last year’s duo of albums, Rejoicing in the Hands and Nino Rojo, didn’t already show a marked increase of depth and precision in comparison to his earliest work (collected on his debut, Oh Me Oh My…), Banhart’s latest release is a double album length masterwork of easy-breezy folk-rock songwriting, confidently loose arrangements and his trademark honest, cheerful insight. His Spanish songs most notably exemplify an increasingly articulate attention to pronunciation and phrasing that deepens them considerably in comparison to earlier efforts. Cripple Crow is also more of a full-band effort than Banhart’s previous work, and as the electrified and swaggering first half of "Long Haired Child” demonstrates, rocking out isn’t something Banhart shies away from. The only real bum track here is "Heard Somebody Say” which quotes John Lennon’s "Oh My Love” a little too closely for comfort. But every other moment on this lovely record sways with sentimental assuredness and childlike wisdom — Banhart gets silly in a childlike way and generally has a good ol’ time singin’ and playin’ the catchy little tunes that come streaming into his kind and clear mind. (XL)