Recorded in Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica mountains. Neil Young lived there while recording "After The Gold Rush" and the area has also been home to Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Joni Mitchell, Mick Fleetwood, and members of The Doors. Those ghosts inhabit the sound and vibe of these recording sessions. Banhart's whole "freak folk" tag is gone, replaced with this classic, gorgeous rock album. Some songs are fragile and solipsistic, others have a pronounced tropicalia influence, and still others are wildly electric and epic.
Like its predecessor CRIPPLE CROW, SMOKEY ROLLS DOWN THUNDER CANYON finds freak-folk figurehead Devendra Banhart expanding his musical palette to new heights of eclecticism. Acoustic folk, augmented by stream of consciousness lyrics and Banhart's seductive quaver is still the main ingredient on this collection of tunes, but an assortment of styles--including samba, klezmer, music hall, gospel, soul, jazz, rock, and pop balladry--make their way into the mix. At first listen Banhart's intensely willful variety might seem distracting, and at times the album does bite off more than it can chew. On the whole, however, SMOKEY is unified in tone. Recorded in Banhart's Topanga Canyon studio in the hills of Santa Monica, home of historic recording sessions by Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and other icons of folk-rock, SMOKEY floats with the hazy feel of early 1970s California, especially on shimmering acoustic gems ("Seaside") or tunes that draw on gospel and country ("Saved"). --Muze
"A delectable psychedelic marker of time and tide - direct and languid, baleful and innocent." --Harp
"SMOKEY...introduces a more complex Banhart....'Freely' is as good a song as he's ever written, actually -- a musically mature relative of 'Heard Somebody Say' from CRIPPLE CROW." 4 stars out of 5 --Uncut