My listening advice for the latest Damien Jurado is to wait until dark, pour in a deep glass of your finest, take a first sip and then put on In the Shape of a Storm.
At long last Damien Jurado finally decided to bring out an acoustic album. The seasoned singer-songwriter from The Emerald City usually surrounds himself with a vintage sound coming from a full band. Yet now there none such finery to be heard and gushy concepts, like songs about aliens or killers are also put aside. In the Shape of a Storm are songs about his life set the scene.
In the Shape of a Storm is the result of a two-our recording session in California and could well be the fastest album he ever made. In terms of resources Jurado only needed his voice, an acoustic guitar, and occasional additional guitar played by Josh Gordon. The ten songs were also already there but which never reached the final-mix stage. A few of them are more than 20 years old such as the delicate opener ‘Lincoln’.
Just like ‘Lincoln’ all other songs are intimate and recall folk music from the 60s and 70s. ‘Newspaper Gown’, for instance, has a Bob Dylan-like meandering feel to it, and ‘Oh Weather’ could easily be a part of Nick Drake’s monumental Pink Moon album. Here, like Nick Drake, Jurado draws inspiration from nature as he sings: “I would walk the Earth to see you smile. Push back the sky and stars, to light my way home”.
It’s difficult to pick one highlight but if I had to name one, it would probably be ‘South‘. Accompanied by some light strumming this song is a keepsake about a childhood friend with whom Jurado once pondered about mature life in big cities but at the same time also waved at planes and pulled out some wrists as youngsters tend to do. The Western-like whistle in the end however turns the romantic memory into a ballad of freedom and maybe deep desolation, something dreaming kids tend to forget as a possible outcome when talking about future plans. Youth is beautiful but also ignorent, he seems to endow.
On the second part of the album Gordon’s subtle guitar is added to the romance that underlies most of narrative. ‘Throw Me Now Your Arms’ is about longing while ‘Where You Want Me To Be’ slightly shifts the tempo up a bit. In many ways it reminds me of Sun Kil Moon’s work. Jurado also lively sketches about long journeys on for example ‘Anchors’ or ‘Hands on the Table’ which indeed are connected once more to memories about love and solace.
An acoustic guitar and a voice. It seems simple enough. Nevertheless a lot of acoustic music that is brought out fails to hold the attention. Damien Jurado’s In the Shape of a Storm does just the opposite. With a very limited range of instruments Jurado creates an almost perfect harmonic yet sober tension that without no doubt will bloom best somewhere between late evenings and early morning hours.
Label: Mama Bird, 2019
- Lincoln (3:09)
- Newspaper Gown (2:55)
- Oh Weather (1:07)
- South (3:07)
- Throw Me Now Your Arms (2:27)
- Where You Want Me to Be (2:10)
- Silver Ball (2:35)
- The Shape of a Storm (2:40)
- Anchors (2:45)
- Hands on the Table (4:25)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 300419