Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
For a good couple of hours, this has remained blank. It's been as white as the ground covering out of the doors here, where temperatures were in the low single digits upon the wake up and everything was covered in what blizzards are made of. There didn't seem to be any good place to start in trying to get somewhere with Damien Jurado and the music he makes, which is essentially the stuff that takes you aback every time you hear it, no matter that you've got the ending, prelude and heart completely memorized. His oeuvre is comprised of reams of aching dissolution of people, struggles through the eyes of the beholder and boiling emotions that he keeps gentlemanly and dark, as if they were lovingly jaded and wishing for an open window only half the time.
There's a warm contentment to all that he sings about and his latest record, Caught in the Trees, is so deceptive (not really an exception) in its tone and the amount of concerning pain and sorting through that's happening in all of the words. They are best left alone, these words, the ones that seem so personal that you'd slowly close the door on them and back out of the room they were coming from as if you accidentally walked in on them getting dressed. Your face would turn the shade of a flamingo and yet once the door was shut back, there you'd remain, pressing an ear to the door to continue listening, so entranced by the words and their mildly blistering beauty. It's almost scary, the brutal human tragedy and the even more brutal moments of coping that come along with those collisions, that Jurado is willing to share. It's as if the last thing he needs is for us to hear him, for us to be cheapening the sentiments by absorbing them so intensely and digesting what they're doing to him, to us. They are binding sentiments that are about leaving, mostly, and they're as reservedly ebullient as they are capable of destroying a person - turning their knees to vapor and the rest to a gently casting dust.
What's so striking about Jurado's songs is that they leave a little light on for you. There, just over the mat, the porch light stays buzzing light yellow through the night hours if you need it and it does happen that you'll circle back and rap upon the door of these songs for a late night call, where more talking than anything happens. It's just more talking - more lies, more truth, more heresy. An image of Jurado (who plays with the excellent team of Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad) when he was in town has stuck with me for the few months since it happened. Outside the big and gorgeous, early turn of the century theatre where he was playing that night - hours before the doors were to open, he stood against a light fixture and smoked a cigarette like molasses, calm and steady, his steely eyes affixed to the stream of cars filled with work-a-day-ers heading home from their places of employment, just thinking and staring.
For as leisure and common of an activity as that one, he made it intense and when he turned, there was a flash in me that wanted to myself turn away quickly, ashamed for watching him smoke his cigarette. But he looked like a man who'd been through the shit on so many occasions and every time that happened he still was able to smell the flowers' scent cutting through the overbearing muck. He sings, "No one's perfect/You must admit it now," on "Dimes" in this session and it's a statement sagging with unpleasant realism that doesn't just go for the one it's directed toward, but to everyone as if its meaning is significant to everyone of us out here shuffling our feel and trying so hard to hurt as few others as we can and hope that it means leniency for our names. Refuge can be found on these Jurado albums even while he's still searching for the same thing or maybe that's not for anyone to suppose. He's where he's fine for now. It's the past that fucked everything up.
Damien Jurado Official site