By Margaret Price
“Have you heard the new Damien Jurado album?” I asked my friend on a chilly March afternoon.
“Nope, I don’t think so. But I did love the crocheted poncho he wore at Pickathon. Every. Day,” she replied, and I instantly knew I needed to see this man live. Fortunately for me, I was able to witness, in all his unassuming flesh, the enigmatic singer-songwriter who has drawn (rightfully so) comparisons to Neil Young, Lou Reed and Jim Morrison, who the Seattle Times recently called “Seattle’s folk-boom godfather,” who often weaves melodic tales so intricate that they could be mistaken for short stories, at the Earl on Wednesday night.
Jurado, this time decidedly poncho-less yet surprisingly shoe-less, played to a modest but earnest audience, not overwhelmingly strong in numbers yet clearly true fans with heart. The band, appropriately flannelled and black t-shirt clad, all at once appeared and, before the crowd had a chance to silence its idle chitchat or even become aware of the musicians on the stage, launched into “Nothing is the News” off of Jurado’s newest release, Maraqopa, his voice strong and unstrained. The remainder of songs played that night was mostly from this album, although Jurado dipped into previous releases Caught in the Trees and Saint Bartlett, as well as the previously unrecorded track “Horizons,” which shimmered in its psychedelic fervor.
“I don’t know how many of you go to church, but this is us bringing it to you,” he finally addressed the audience, his first spoken words of the evening as the band recreated the cheerful, handclap revivalism of “Let Us All In,” the last song in his set with the full setup.
Not skipping a beat, the band left the stage and Jurado settled into an intimate solo set, beginning with the plaintive despondency of “Rachel and Cali” and moving onto “Sheets” and “Everything Trying.” Damien, surveying the crowd from behind brooding, shifty eyes unplugged his acoustic guitar and stepped over the row of amps to play “Arkansas” directly to the audience itself. “This is the last song, and this is how it should be done,” he matter-of-factly stated, and the crowd naturally agreed.
Catching up with Jurado after the show, who had casually walked back behind the merch table to shill cds and vinyl, an off-handed remark from a bystander (“Hey, man, do you wanna go party after this?”) led to him recounting a rather succinct story about how he hadn’t had a drink since the age of 17, when an unfortunate incident involving the smashing of a 40 bottle on someone’s head landed him in jail. Wondering if this was just one of the fanciful stories he’s so one to create, I realized it didn’t really matter. As a man of so few words, the ones he does use clearly merit a listen.
Nothing is the News
This Time Next Year
Reel to Reel
Everyone A Star
Museum of Flight
Let Us All In
Rachel and Cali