Sunday, April 18, 2010

Music Review: Damien Jurado - Caught in the Trees

Singer/songwriter Damien Jurado has released about a dozen records in his career; all of them powerful, intimate, and intelligent efforts. He plays guitar and tells cryptic and touching stories. Most of his songs inhabit a sparse, quiet area - similar to the songs of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and occasionally Neil Young or more recently Peter Bjorn and John. A few of his CDs have shown that he can write more rocking songs, but he still is most comfortable as a guy with his acoustic guitar, quietly singing lyrics scribbled on the back of a napkin.

Caught in the Trees – released on the Secretly Canadian website - is an effort of mostly gentle lullabies, but it does rock at a few points. The 13-track effort is a solid effort that flows nicely, and Jurado’s lyrics are straightforward and touching. The album feels like a section from a melancholy autobiography that is translated to music. Jurado’s slightly screechy voice is confident as he sings about the ins and outs of humanity, his favorite, and best, topic. He is supported wonderfully by sharp, muted, drumming, strings, pianos and female backing vocals.

Jurado’s songs are always set to his own point of view, and often start or stop in unexpected places, or changes at random points. The musicianship is pleasant and the storytelling is vivid on Caught in the Trees. With lyrics like “You’ll be happy to know the situation is worse,” “You look like you could use a rest. You look like you’d be better off dead,” “I’m no lie detector. He’s no bullshit talker,” “Are you alright? You’re making me nervous with how much you’re leaving me here,” and “Another jealous husband to be killed,” overtop of downtempo, full guitar chords, restrained drumming and sprinkles of strings and pianos, Caught in the Trees is Damien Jurado’s murky heartbeat. It kicks up a couple times, but stays mostly somber, but is always intense and interesting.

Caught in the Trees is a CD that could be played over and over again in the background of your activities. It is a gentle effort, not demanding attention, not screaming at you, but is nicely rhythmic and overall a lovely, subdued effort - similar to most of Jurado’s other efforts. Since they are all beautifully simple and smart, that is a good thing.

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