Damien Jurado - Where Shall You Take Me?
On the heels of his first full-blown rock excursion, I Break Chairs, Damien Jurado returns with what might be his quietest album. But his strengths have always been subtlety and restraint.
You couldn’t help but feel that Jurado was a little out of his element on I Break Chairs. His sheer exhilaration at breaking free from his role as dour singer-songwriter carried that album far, but in the end, the detour seemed overly self-conscious and the results sounded a bit like warmed-over Son Volt. While he’s promised more rock albums with the Gathered in Song band, Jurado has settled down on Where Shall You Take Me? and crafted something solid and mature, if not altogether trailblazing.
The CD begins with the subtlest track, “Amateur Night,” which might be from the perspective of a pornographer, a drug dealer, a murderer, an abusive husband—or perhaps all of the above. What is clear is that someone’s about to get hurt. With a few telling details—a razor blade, a camera, blood on the floor—the tension mounts and a growing musical drone slowly floods the song with mounting anxiety. Like with most of Jurado’s songs—and life, for that matter—there are no easy resolutions. The song ends with the narrator fumbling to rationalize things: “I am not an evil man, I just have a habit I can’t kick. It starts with an urge, and ends with…” He trails off for a moment and then: “Hang up the phone. I ain’t finished yet.” Then, suddenly, in indescribably chilling fashion, with the drone at its height, the song just ends.
Fear is quickly replaced by the Ordinary, like the everyday sadness in “Omaha,” with Rosie Thomas adding a high lonesome counterpart to Jurado’s earthy moan. Drought and a mother’s death haunt the gospel-styled “Window,” while “Abeline” is an old-fashioned “courtin’ song” about running off with a “girl of 19” without her parents’ permission. “Matinee” provides the album’s single light-hearted moment, imparting such down-home wisdom as “why go late when the movies are cheaper in the day?”
Jurado’s next album is sure to be wildly different. But wherever his flighty muse dares to take him, this album shows that he’ll always be building on a solid foundation.