Jurado's songwriting tales remain potent as ever...
Mark Perlaki

16:10 1st September 2008

Back in 1999, Rehearsals for Departure made a relative breakthrough for Seattle's Damien Jurado, but it's the home of Secretly Canadian where Jurado has honed his folk-based style and Raymond Carver-like first person vignettes. 'Caught In The Trees' brings about his eighth album, a work themed around death, decay, loss and jealousy. Less the chirp happy subjects, yet these are no mawkish tracks. Bandmates Jenna Conrad and Eric Fisher worked closely on the compositions and manage to flesh out Jurado's rockier sound with a departure from the folk-based template, while Jurado's songwriting tales remain potent as ever.

Like Damien Rice, he's a songwriter undaunted by the seamier and darker side of the emotions. Duets with Jenna Conrad bring about a Rice / Hannigan-like warmth, as on the rollin' quicksilver 'Gillian Was A Horse" with Conor Oberst-like tones from Jurado - "...I'm a lie detector/ he's no bullshit talker..." and the cello accompanied passion plea of 'Sorry Is For You', 'Paper Kite', and the romantic longing of 'Everything Trying' reprise a winning formula.

Elsewhere, a triangle of love is addressed from the perspective of a jealous male with Jurado asking "...is he still coming around like an injured bird...swallow him whole/ like a pill/ that makes you choke...", it's an angle that both brings out his lyrical strengths and musically capture the calmness and clarity of self-assured anger. The cello-scored 'Predictive Living' has Jurado setting the scene in falsetto - "...chairs broken in style...another jealous husband to be killed..." with a delicate melody that contrasts the darkness at heart.

Jurado plays with an Elliott Smith vein for the arresting acoustic cherry, 'Trials', with verses addressing death and failure - "...I'll make them think the death was rehearsed..." in manner that could be weighing up Smith's loss, and 'Coats Of Ice' forms a riffing humdinger to take to task the artist burning down the candle with "the endless bottles of pills that never seem to work", with self-destruction the topic for 'Go First' in a strung-out rhythm similar to label-mate Jason Molina (Songs : Ohia / Magnolia Electric Co.) as Jurado draws out his vocal - "...I don't feel like ever getting well..".

Elsewhere, musical tensions are created between the verses and melody on the riffing 'Caskets' with a vocal that mirrors Steve Mason of The Beta Band, and the ripping (sic) 'Best Dress' works up a sweat with a sultry P.J. Harvey-like staccato-stalker drawn from the mantra "hey now, put your best dress on".
It's comforting to know that Damien Jurado teaches kindergarten, and not writing dark tales of revenge and necromancy. Meanwhile, he remains a peripheral chappie with no movie exposure to hang about his neck. Yet there's a universalism in his themes and his vocal command brings about such a range of moods to work with different rhythms as to evoke many a male comparison.