Named by an Indian mystic whom his parents followed in Texas, folk troubadour Devendra Banhart sings quirky, skeletal vignettes with a voice that can change from brittle tenor to quivering falsetto in the blink of an eye. Accompanying himself on a battered acoustic guitar, the 23-year-old lo-fi eccentric was a homeless, wandering minstrel until a crudely rendered batch of his songs -- some recorded on a friend's answering machine during long-distance phone calls from Paris -- fell into the hands of Michael Gira, former frontman for New York's Swans and owner of Young God Records. Released in 2002 under the ungainly title Oh Me Oh My . . .The Way The Day Goes By The Sun Is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs Of The Christmas Spirit, the hiss-saturated home recordings captured Banhart's uniquely crazed meditations with warmth, intimacy and humor. Recalling Daniel Johnston, Nick Drake or Chris Culhane from the Lords of Howling, Banhart broadens the sound and scope of his devotional stream of consciousness on his sophomore followup, Rejoicing in the Hands. Combining elements of the blues, ragtime and Celtic folk tunes, Banhart remains a hypnotic performer whose vocal savvy and off-kilter wordplay have earned him cult status on college radio, for good reason.
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