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Damien Jurado | Rehearsals For Departure (Sub Pop / Ryko)
Departure seems an apt term as Jurado completes his transition from neo-punk to folk troubadour. Ten concise fables that draw lyrically from human failing and the resultant breakdown of relationships and musically from the tradition of DYLAN and DRAKE, are updated with a keen pop sensibility, subtle instrument-ation and perfectly judged production from KEN STRINGFELLOW (THE POSIES). Opener Ohio has the fingerpicked guitar and harmonica combination of Blood on the Tracks set behind a wistful vocal melody (sadly reminiscent of DR. HOOK's Sylvia's Mother!) and a mood-setting narrative of resignation. The Nick Drake inflections of Eyes For Windows veer perilously close to parody; the song saved by the menacing strings and odd, sampled monologue that closes the song. Small-town America gives Jurado a wealth of material for his bittersweet tales ?? "She tells me how her night was spent nursing coffee and cigarettes / You waited 'til your husband left to pack your things and off you went / He wouldn't notice that you'd left 'til morning when the drink wore off" he sings on the title track. Best of all is the sparse Curbside, a breathy confessional of unrequited love ?? "Where are you now, you're with another / I am sitting by the curbside where we'd hang out under streetlights / How those times still are with me." With a ghostly harmony by Sarah Shannon adding to the pervading sense of loss, it's a genuinely moving performance, one of many of this fine record.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue