Where Shall You Take Me?
Damien Jurado is the sort of songwriter who straddles rock's past and future, and with each record contributes a new chapter to an ever-fruitful body of work. His latest offering Where Shall You Take Me? is his fifth full-length, and is a beautiful collection of ten Raymond Carver-esque vignettes terror and bliss in Middle America. Two decades after Springsteen's Nebraska, Jurado puts the darker, more complicated side of the heartland back on the map with his tales of young love (some requited; some not), innocent fun and bloodshed. Mostly acoustic with very sparse band arrangements -- with the notable exception being the old live favorite "Texas to Ohio," which sounds like a Scarecrow-era Mellencamp hit -- Jurado has the songwriting talent that turns back the hands of time and places the listener in a timeless place in which his tunes sound like they've been floating around and passed down from generation to generation, not unlike Gillian Welch, Richard Buckner or Lucinda Williams. "Window," for instance, sounds like spiritual from the deep south, while "Abilene" sounds like an early American folk tune. On his first two albums Waters Ave S and Rehearsals For Departure, the Seattle-ite established himself as a very important contemporary artist, whose records reflected a keen sense of personality and a pop sensibility akin to Matthew Sweet or Richard Davies, only slightly more subdued. These albums even more notably illustrated his talent as a songwriter and singer in the same league as the late great Phil Ochs as well as Ron Sexsmith. With his third record, the very forward-looking Ghost of David, Jurado clearly positioned himself at the forefront of his peers in terms of willingness to experiment with the pop songwriter formula. A rough-hewn collage of a record which combined sparse sing-song tunes with moody noise pieces, some of which he sang, others which collaborator Rosie Thomas took the lead mic, Ghost of David was a loosely constructed, organic hand-wrought zine of an album -- a unique and daring constellation work in an otherwise well-traversed sky. His follow-up Gathered In Song is the rock record that long-time fans were waiting for, fans that knew Jurado from his early days in which he played in rock outfit Coolidge with young pre-Pedro the Lion David Bazan.
(SC084 released: 03/18/03)