I’ve been a fringe fan of Damien Jurado over the years, accumulating songs here and there while becoming intermittently obsessed with certain songs like “Gillian Was a Horse” and “Ohio.” I’ve always heard good things about him – he’s been compared to Nick Drake. He’s good enough to have released albums on the Sub Pop and Secretly Canadian labels. He’s had a much-lauded solo career spanning the better part of 15 years. All of the signs were there, but somehow I never invested much time in his work.
We received Jurado’s latest album, Saint Bartlett, a couple weeks ago thanks to our friends at Secretly Canadian. Excited to finally have a full Damien Jurado album, I promptly downloaded it and pressed play. Saint Bartlett comes out of the gate with two really strong tracks. “Cloudy Shoes” opens and throws together a beautiful combination of strings, a damp yet groovy percussion, and off-kilter backing vocals that all work together so perfectly it almost hurts as Jurado sings, “Trying to work it out, I’m still trying to fix my mind.” That’s immediately followed by “Arkansas” with its twinkling keys, heavy-handed drum beat, and a hint of an acoustic guitar with Jurado’s wistful vocals. It’s amazing and, lucky for you, both can be downloaded below for free.
The rest of the album is outstanding. Standout tracks include “Beacon Hill”, “Throwing Your Voice”, and “Rachel and Cali.” After listening to all of Saint Bartlett and then going back and taking another listen to some of Jurado’s older music, I began to gain a new appreciation for him. There’s an undeniable purity to his music that knocks you off your feet. And there’s a certain longing in Jurado’s voice that I love – it’s inimitable. And I think those traits are why Jurado has had success over such a long time period – his work seems to be ever-changing, yet always incredibly pure and original. If you haven’t given a real hard listen, I encourage you to. In the meantime, whet your appetite with “Cloudy Shoes” and “Arkansas”.