Tomorrow is the release date for the latest from freak-folk artist Devendra Banhart. Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon will be released by XL Recordings in a regular jewel-case edition and a limited edition digipak with bonus artwork and a booklet (though I've yet to see this booklet to see if it's worth the extra scratch).
Last week I caught Banhart at the First Avenue in Minneapolis. He played a fantastic show that lasted nearly two hours and featured material from his previous releases and many of the songs from the new album. Backed by a five-piece band, and calling themselves Spiritual Boner, Banhart and co. were particularly impressive on "Shabop Shalom" and "Freely" - two of my favourites from Smokey, but perhaps the most impressive song of the night came from a 'surprise' guest.
I'm using quotation marks there because I'm still not convinced what happened was as spontaneous and capricious as Banhart would have the audience believe. About three-quarters of the way through the show, Banhart asked if anyone in the audience had written any songs lately and a few people put up their hands, including a woman a couple people back from the front. He then asked her to come up on stage and play a song - giving her his guitar, stool and mic to do so.
The woman said she had driven from Cleveland to attend the show and proceeded to sing a song called "The Moon and I," which can be found here. It was one of those moments that before she sang, one thinks "oh god, this could be terrible." But as the song went on, trepidation turned to astonishment at what a good song it was and what a crazy moment to be witnessing in the middle of another artists' show. That's what leads me to believe Dina Rae was a plant of sorts - she just seemed too good to be true, and very at ease for someone who was just given the spotlight in a very packed First Avenue.
But if she wasn't a plant then what an incredible performer to have seized the opportunity - and to be quite frank, if she was a plant, do I really care as long as she was good? What could have been a car-crash in the middle of an incredible show ended up being one of my personal highlights, and as a music fan I guess I shouldn't be too picky about whether I saw something that was rehearsed or entirely spontaneous, because the basic fact is, I saw it.
If you want to hear some of the new Devendra Banhart record, he's posted a few songs on his web page.