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  • Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon [Vinyl]
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Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon [Vinyl]

23 customer reviews

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Vinyl, January 20, 2009
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$26.64 $89.00
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

1. Cristobal
2. So Long Old Bean
3. Samba Vexillographica
4. Seahorse
5. Bad Girl
6. Seaside
7. Shabop Shalom
8. Tonada Yanomaminista
9. Rosa
10. Saved
11. Lover
12. Carmencita
13. Other Woman, The
14. Freely
15. I Remember
16. My Dearest Friend

Product Details

  • Vinyl (January 20, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Beggars Xl Recording
  • ASIN: B000ULQVD4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,900 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on September 26, 2007
Format: Audio CD
First off I have to say this is a great album. If your into Devendra Banhart and liked Cripple Crow then do not hesitate now, buy this album. If you new to Devendra Banhart than this really is a pretty good place to start. The album has a much fuller sound than any of his previous efforts, due to the fact that he features a full band. It also very accessible to people who are not really into the whole Freak Folk scene. I really enjoy his voice on this album as compared to any of his other albums because on a few tracks he tries singing in a lower octive, which I enjoyed. Also, Rich Robinson, guitarist for the Black Crows, appears on a track. As the other reviewer said, the words are a little hard to read, but not that bad. The art scheme fits with his other albums and personally I like it. Bottom line, is that Devendra Banhart has made another great album, and great albums are a lost are in this radio world of singles.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tim Brough VINE VOICE on October 12, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Giving off the same earthy vibe as his terrific Cripple Crow, Devendra Banhart taps into the good vibrations of California's Topanga Canyon. The result is the friskiest and most musically solid album of his unashamedly eclectic career. Songs bounce between 60's psychedelic to the Jackson 5-ish Motown of "Lover" to 50's novelty of "Shabop Shalom" and it's humorous "wonder wonder who, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls" quip, and it all works like a dreamy California morning. Even the Spanish language songs meld effortlessly into the whole of the CD.

Banhart is also getting more adventurous. While his album is richer musically than anything he has done before, he is hardly getting slick. "Smokey Rolls..." seems far more dependant on feel than fidelity (there are times when his vocal yelps distort annoyingly), and I would guess that the vocal pitch correction softwear was NOT brought in to smooth over the errors. All the better. With a standout six minutes of a song like "Sea Horse" making music sound communal again, "Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon" is a minor miracle; an album by an artist who is willing to throw commercial cautions to the wind and make a full length CD that holds together as a piece. Since most artists seem bound and determined to do nothing but create jingles, singles and ring-tones lately, Devendra Banhart must now be counted as a serious contender as a maker of progressive popular music.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Marc Cabir Davis on September 30, 2007
Format: Audio CD
First of all, I think that this one is Devendra's greatest album, even better than 'Cripple Crow'. Despite his vocal limitations (Jeff Buckley he is not, even though he does have that whisper every now and then), Devendra is remarkable at living within his musical genre, not stretching himself too far, and still make a cohesive record that is not boring or tedious.

I found this recording to be a little more difficult to get into upon first listen though. A lot of songs sounded rough-edged and harsher, and the production was less tight than "Cripple Crow". Still, it lends a certain folksy rusticness to the entire production that ultimately worked in its' favor. Listen to the opener "Christobal". How could you not be moved by it?

My favorite though, is the 9 minute long epic "Sea Horse". However, Devendra's increasing tendency to record Spanish language tracks sometimes don't work - here however, they do. What I especially liked is that even though this remains an 'alternative folk' album, the mood is very 'Mulholland Drive', with elements of 1950s swing showing up every now and then. Sometimes theres a string section very reminiscent of The Beatles. Its this sort of pop sensibility that I think makes Devendra very accessible, and even though you may not know much about the artists' previous work, this album is definitely essential.

Like Imogen Heap and Patti Smith, Devendra seems to be getting better with every release, and I would consider this to be the most 'essential' of all his albums (its at least ten times better than 'Nino Rojo') and this is at least twice as good as 'Cripple Crow'.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin A. Teague on September 28, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Unlike others *cough* Andrew Bird *cough* that rise up from obscurity, Devendra tends to keep getting better with every album. In my opinion, this album kicks that crap out of anything Devendra made in the past. It has a 1950s do-wop, 1968 Beatles, with a dash of Brazilian - thing going one. Lots of Spanish on this album, but as an English monolinguist - I still loved it. The English lyrics are funkier than any Devendra album that I've heard in the past.

And if I were to chart his improvement on a bar graph, every album seems to get better and better. Even on Nino Rojo, there were a few cringe-worthy songs that I always skip. But on Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, every song is to be relished. He hasn't lost any of his whimsical lyric writing powers. In fact, this higher production quality album seems to give Devendra more a license to be free spirited, if that was even possible. Devendra calls his style "Naturalismo." So you would think that a higher production value would cripple the free spirit. But instead, in this case, a higher production value helps him soar. This album has been repeating in my iPod since it was released. Keep going Banhart! Felicitación!
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