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DEVENDRA BANHART


Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon


3/4 stars


& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hen Devendra Banhart released his last opus, "Cripple Crow," he proved that he could pay tribute to the musicians who inspire him while managing to add his own unique stamp to stylized new compositions. This trend continues on what is certain to be hailed as another "freak-folk" masterpiece.





On Smokey, Banhart continues his dialogue with the greats. His Marc Bolan on "Lover" is almost a dead ringer for a '70s-era T. rex, and on the dubby "The Other Woman," one would think Banhart was in a Jamaican studio with Jimmy Cliff and the Congos in the early '70s passing the dutchie and taking notes. He even manages to channel The King in the sweet southern jangle "So Long Old Bean."





But too much such dialogue makes Smokey sound like a tribute record. Wasn't the point of freak-folk to do something unique? These days, everyone's trying to sound like someone else.


-- DARCY CAPUTO





DOWNLOAD: "Tonada Yanomaminista"





DAX RIGGS


We Sing of Only Blood or Love


4/4 stars


& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & ax Riggs may be insane. Or maybe he's reaching the elusive potential he has shown since fronting '90s sludge-monsters Acid Bath. After pulling the plug on Deadboy & amp; the Elephantmen earlier this year, Riggs is dropping his first solo offering. While embracing similar lyrical themes -- death, suicide, devils -- the music takes a more accessible route.





Such accessibility comes as the result of serious restraint. The bombastic guitars and vocal gymnastics remain, but the rough edges have been filed down to allow a greater sense of continuity. For all hints of a metal-headed youth (the brackish "Night Is the Notion" and "Truth In the Dark") or the grim balladeer ("The Terrors of Nightlife"), Riggs keeps the reins close. Nothing gets out of hand: Of the 15 tracks, only four break the 2:30 mark.


In his most unfettered artistic outing, Riggs reaches for loftier heights.


-- CAREY MURPHY





DOWNLOAD: "Wall of Death"
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