Damien Jurado doesn’t feel like writing songs about his life. Sitting next to me on a barstool at the dimly lit Echo Lounge music club in Atlanta, maintaining admirable posture, he takes a squinting drag on his most recent cigarette and expresses his profound distaste for autobiographical songwriting. He’s got a happy marriage, he enjoys fatherhood (his son’s name is, I swoon, Miles Davis Jurado), he’s not ashamed of his conservative politics. But, in lieu of songs about PTA meetings and watching football games with buddies at the local sports bar, Jurado entertains a fascination with life’s darker corners, the cobweb-filled pockets of misery and evil lining the pages of Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis novels.
Jurado’s newest project, a slimly packaged 5-song acoustic EP entitled Holding His Breath, opens with the neo-Pauline confessional, “I Am The Greatest Of All Liars,” in which he detachedly sings, “I’m the suicide with blanks / I am fire in the tank / I’m the dishes in the sink.” The disc’s other two original tunes relate the tale of a carriage ride with The Man In The Black Pajamas (“Oh Death Art With Me”), as well as the plea of a broken man unable to convince his lover that he deserves another chance (“Big Let Down”), backing vocals on the latter song courtesy of the ever-lilting Rosie Thomas. His cover of 764-Hero’s “Now You’re Swimming” employs the muted background yelling technique David Bazan used in Pedro the Lion’s early tune, “Almost There.” And the album closes with a folky rendition of Peggy Seeger’s “Butcher Boy,” about a woman who kills herself for love, found dangling from a rope by her poor father.
You’ve been warned. This is not a feel-good album. But it’s a damn-good album.