13 December 2007
Where's the love for Devendra?
When Cripple Crow came out in 2005, every music critic was drooling with anticipation and glee thanks to the success of This Is the Way the previous year.
But there were nothing but crickets when Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon was released in September. And I don't understand why that is, because this album is definitely his boldest and most ambitious yet. Who are we kidding, though? We all know music critics can't really handle it when a super-talented musician like Devendra has a wide musical range like he does.
This definitely has a lot to do with the fact that most of his songs are sung in Spanish. He did a few songs here and there in Spanish in his previous albums, but this'n is more pronounced. Not only that, it's not straightforward "freak folk."
The more I type about the negative critiques, the more perplexed I get. The music on this album is astounding. Hands down, this is the best album Devendra's done musically. Just because you don't understand what Devendra is singing when he's singing in Spanish shouldn't take away his creative competence. I don't know what the hell Gustav Ejstes of Swedish band Dungen says, either, but the mother can play his ass off.
That's another thing. I've actually met people who say they can't listen to foreign bands because they don't know what they're saying. Who the hell cares? If you claim to be the music lover that you are, then you should be able to grasp what the hell's going on just by--get this--listening to the music as well as the vocalist's tone to catch the mood. Stereolab's one of the greatest bands from the last two decades, and they mostly sing in French, but so what?
Listening to Smokey, it is extremely obvious that he put his heart into this album. I mean, it gets old being dubbed the "Father of Freak-Folk," like that's what his music was about--being a weirdo who had a freaky voice singing a bunch of folk songs. In this album, he establishes himself as something more than that--a great musician.
Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, hands down, is the Sleeper Album of the Year. Hell, it may even be Album of the Year. And if you don't recognize this now, don't worry. Five years from now you'll take it out of the jewel case and put it in the player and be blown away.