Damien Jurado: Saint Bartlett

Damien Jurado: Saint Bartlett
In his decade and a half of releasing music, Damien Jurado has racked up some serious acclaim. Pitchfork Media gave his 1999 sophomore album, Rehearsals for Departure an 8.2/10. It’s follow up, 2000’s Ghost of David received the same mark from the critical site. His last album, 2008’s Caught in the Trees got high markings from such varied sources as Slant Magazine, PopMatters, and Paste Magazine. His ninth studio album, Saint Bartett hopes to continue this success.
Because his instrument of choice is an acoustic guitar, Damien Jurado is often labeled a folk singer. The truth is Jurado actually dabbles in several genres. The album’s opening track “Cloudy Shoes” is not what I would call a folk song. With its lush string arrangements it sounds like something off of Phantom Planet‘s breakout album, The Guest. Of course, Jurado’s lyrics are not the sunny California-type as Phantom Planet tends to be. Jurado instead mires in self pity with lines like “I wish that I could float up from the ground/I will never know what that’s like”.
That’s not to say that Jurado does not produce some more traditional folk songs. The album’s closing track “With Lightning In Your Hands” is reminiscent of Iron and Wine. The track is slow and plodding featuring just acoustic guitar. His voice has a haunting reverb effect on it. There is a choir-like effect that is employed on some of his vocals that give the track an earthy feel. The track is an eerie closing number.
Overall, Saint Bartlett has some strong songs. Surely for Damien Jurado fans this will be an apt addition to their collection. For non-fans, the album might not be a great point to jump into his catalog. There is a good deal of plodding songs that barely raise above a whisper that could easily put new listeners to sleep. While Jurado has never been an overly energetic song writer, some songs on Saint Bartlett might stand out as some of the sleepiest in his collection. So while the album is formidible, I do not think its his strongest effort.
Rating: 6.5/10
MP3: Damien Jurado “Cloudy Shoes”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!

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