National Public Viking

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Damien Jurado...

For the longest time, I wanted to write songs like Damien Jurado. His earlier contributions to the "indie-folk" fare were more imaginative than Elliot Smith, at least I thought so. He carried depression like Mark Eitzel, but found most of his inspiration from Dylan and Neil Young's more folky material. Narratives filled his lyrics, but not as boring literary tropes (Decemberists, I'm looking at you). He never covers these stories with grossly exaggerated metaphors or sickenly bloated images, just presents the stories as themselves.

Jurado lost my attention after the one-two punch of Ghost of David (2000) and Four Songs (2001), arguably his best work. The former feels like a confessional: warmingly dark like a bottle of cabernet after a funeral. While Elliot Smith's "Needle in the Hay" perfectly accented the attempted suicide scene in The Royal Tenenbaums, "Tonight I Will Retire" is the contemplation that fingers the revolver sitting on the bedside table.

He followed with a straight-ahead indie-rock album, a rather boring traditional folk outing with Rosie Thomas (whom I love), and last year with a mish-mash of stripped-down folk and a couple songs ripped straight off The Lioness (by Jurado's tour-mate Songs: Ohia). Needless to say, I lost interest. Not that I didn't appreciate Jurado moving into different musics, just that his newfound tastes lacked his strong songwriting.

I'm happy to write that And Now I'm In Your Shadow (out October 10, 2006) is a great album. As much as I love her, it's good that Rosie Thomas does not collaborate here. Jurado relied too heavily on her sweet harmonies. Instead, an unknown from Berkeley, California named Jenna Conrad sings along. She doesn't particularly stand out, but it's what Jurado needs. He sticks mostly to his acoustic guitar with light arrangements of violin, piano, electric guitar/bass, and drums scattered throughout. It's not a full-on return to any particular part of his discography, more like a realization that he stretched his songwriting styles too thin and has found himself in a more comfortable place that pushes his craft further.

Jurado comes to the Black Cat with Rosie Thomas on October 9th.


At 10:00 AM, Blogger christa t said...

once I went into your room and took all your damien jurado cds and copied them for myself. I hope that's ok, because I love them dearly. thanks for the heads up on the new cd and tour, 'cause he'll be in atlanta next week.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger sauce said...

man, I really like "I break chairs." Haven't heard any of his other albums...


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