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Baker's Dozen

Augmenting Reality: Devendra Banhart's Favourite Albums
Tara Joshi , September 28th, 2016 09:34

Following the release of his ninth album, Ape In Pink Marble, the LA-based singer-songwriter and artist opts against a theme of lobster-based smut (read on) and talks Tara Joshi through his 13 all-time favourite records


Mississippi John Hurt – Avalon Blues
This definitely goes under "all-time faves". He's one of the blues-man legends, and I heard his stuff when I was in high school and it made me want to play music. He was a huge influence and I thought I wanted to be a blues man – a little effeminate, Venezuelan boy in California just saying, "I'm gonna be a blues man". I've got all the right credentials! I've always loved his music, and I find it very comforting – I kind of turn to him and his recordings to approximate that feeling of a mom rocking her baby. I find it very grounding and, yeah, he's amazing.

I would say that about a lot of blues as well – early blues stuff like Blind Willie Johnson, Charley Patton, Bo Carter, Skip James, Son House and Lead Belly. They were all my favourite people in the whole world. Blind Willie McTell as well. That was it – we just listened to all of them for the whole first tour we ever did. It was me and this guy Entrance, who I'm still friends with and I love him and [his] music – but we were just on the road as blues guys. At the same time as wanting to be a blues guy, though, part of me also wanted to be in band like Faust or Can. I felt that was very clear to me. And then I fell in love with Caetano Veloso and that kind of obliterated everything – I was kind of like, "Oh, this is what I've actually been looking for." Caetano plays everything, and it's all very Caetano, and he's exploring every genre and that's what I want to do. But prior to that it was all about the motherfuckin' blues! Or krautrock.

Mississipi John Hurt won out of all the blues stuff I listen to, but the exception is Blind Willie Johnson who also has two songs that are maybe two of the most transcendent pieces of music that I've ever heard. One of them was actually sent out to space on Carl Sagan's gold disc – it's called 'Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground', there's no lyrics, it's just Blind Willie Johnson playing the slide and moaning and it's one of the most beautiful pieces of music. There's talk of doing a new disc; at least that's the chatter coming from the jet propulsion labs up in Pasadena. What should go on there is a whole different interview.