If last year’s splendid The Horizon Just Laughed is seen as a goodbye, then Damien Jurado’s new record, In the Shape of a Storm, is best understood as a new beginning. Recorded in a few hours, Jurado’s simpler, acoustic approach (and first for Mama Bird Recording Co.) lands direct. The posh, soft rock orchestration glaze found on Horizon is traded for a narrator retracing his steps. Arguably more autobiographical than Horizon, Storm addresses the newness of relationships, locale, and moving on. Recorded prior to the passing of friend/collaborator Richard Swift, Jurado’s concern for his friend and others are imprinted with heavy, textural brushstrokes among tremendous, metaphorical and literal weight.
Haunted opener, “Lincoln”, repeats “nothing to hide” amid vapor ridden hollows. Jurado shapes the premise of goodbyes and being removed by pointing to previous darkened walkways. His new beginnings are laced with secrets, ill-fated timing, and isolation. He comments his “praises and prayers were all sent back” and “heaven is full of people who belong”. Follow up, “Newspaper Gown” is a poignant study in-of-itself and confronts Jurado’s unwillingness to fail. “South” travels hillsides under a spell of early Leonard Cohen as Jurado shapes childhood memories into allegorical visions, ending with a foreboding whistle.
Sun streaks of warmth, like the brief “Oh Weather”, place smiles and new love into the bargain while “Throw Me Now Your Arms” offers a sacrificial promise over a brighter strummed guitar. Acceptance and admission highlight the gentle but unsettling “Where You Want Me to Be” and Jurado acts as a vessel on the metallic “Silver Ball”, aching and echoing in shimmers of reverb as high-strung guitars flit into his current truth: time does not heal.
The title track holds space with unlucky companionship, recognition, and figurative sinking. Jurado sings of sailing into the unknown, missing the shore, and being thrown into the deep. The seamless transition into “Anchors” scratches the eternal and present time with “I don’t need another reminding, of how it isn’t our time.” These themes, like Jurado’s voice, hang like a humid summer day. It might read irreverent and leap heavy for some, but Jurado traverses a Leonard Cohen ascent. Equally masterful as poet and lyricist, Jurado’s voice continues to age into a sought after single malt, placing truth into the hurried, spirit-void America.
After a month length of listens, Storm is best appreciated as a painting or sketch of Jurado’s mood. At times, begging for flashes of colors, as his gray scales cloud the cracks of light readily available, In The Shape of a Storm seeps from the stitching of canvas and offers both the ordinary and mystery we tug at.