There's plenty that has been said about Devendra's gifts -the praise being quite deserved- yet when it comes to Cripple Crow being some sort of step back in his musical development, I believe its critics are being a bit too harsh.
As far as I'm concerned, all comparisons aside, the material here belongs with and should meet the expectations of those who have been deeply impressed by his prior output. Banhart's mature musical vision is, specially considering how young he is and how adventurous he remains when it comes to writing new songs, nothing less than remarkable.
Before I ever heard this album, some people whom I know and respect warned me that I may find it boring or disappointing. Well, that has not been the case for me, you may find Cripple Crow less obscure, more accessible than prior albums but this is not to say that this guy has even come close to "selling out" or "losing his touch."
The fact that these songs may hit you immediately or have you under their spell at first listening, should not be a reason to criticize them. After all, "accessible" should not be an indictment on Banhart, and songs like "Now That I Know," "I Feel Just Like A Child," or "Hey Mama Wolf" definitely belong to the same imagination and mischief present in prior albums.
If you are looking for proof of breadth -something this album's critics said it lacked- just gather "Luna De Margarita," "Chinese Children," "Korean Dogwood" and "Little Boys," and you may recognize the kind of adventurous musical range that alternative Folk has not seen since the Incredible String Band.
In addition to those, I'd like to mention the few he sings in Spanish. If your definition of Folk transcends the Anglo tradition, you'll find delight on Banhart gift for Latin American melodies, particularly the beautiful "Santa Maria De Feira," as well as "Luna De Margarita" and "Quedate Luna."
All in all, this is an very good album, and for me, possibly as satisfying in its own right as "Niño Rojo" or Rejoicing In The Hands." If you have been floored by this guy creativity and disregard for the safety of prior successes, you may buy it without worries nor hesitation.