Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cycle of CDs: Damien Jurado - 'Saint Bartlett' (2010)


It didn't take long after being introduced to Damien Jurado that I was sold on him as a favorite musician. A friend happened to hear his music being played in a record store. He liked it, bought it, and brought it to me to listen on a visit to Tuscaloosa. That album was Where Shall You Take Me?

Fast forward several years ahead and a few albums later, and we have Jurado's Saint Bartlett, his most recent release. I picked this up on the day of his show last week, and I'm glad I did, as he played the entire album from start to finish with a band that did an excellent job of layering the songs without stepping on the important aspects of Jurado's work: his vocals and his words.

The album is like that, too. This is as good as production gets. In it, you can pick up ambient sounds, odd instruments, and beautiful noises; however, none of it takes away from the songs.

If you like Jurado, you do because of his knack of turning the plain, ordinary thoughts into things of extremely haunting beauty. The amazing thing is that he absolutely never goes cliche. You just won't find overused phrases in any of his works. He is a master at using simple words and having them sound brand new, and I think he does this by not overdoing any one particular thing.

Jurado is probably most famous for his brief snippets of life and bringing out the depth of their normalness. There's always a hint of sadness in Jurado's work that truly sticks with you; for exammple, even we tries to go positive, he just can't help but bring it back down to Earth ("I wish that/I could float/Float up from the ground/I will never know/What that's like").

That tinge of sadness prevelant throughout his songs doesn't depress you, though. It lifts you up and helps you to know that we're all the same -- it's the univeral notion that great authors accomplish consistently. Jurado's work is equally consistent, too; I've yet to hear a CD of his that wasn't great.

I honestly could go on and on about him. I'll just leave you with it, though. Go to his myspace and listen to some of his new tracks. Like an urban John Prine, he gets what life is. Maybe more importantly, he also gets what life isn't.

This is a master at work. I cannot stop listening. If he and his songs aren't an argument for the support of local record stores, I don't know what is.

Editor's Note: This is the tenth of a series of essays where the author takes a look and listen into every CD he has in his collection.

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