Review: Damien Jurado’s frugal sounds rich with love, hope

April 10, 2019
This cover image released by Mama Bird Recording Co. shows "In the Shape of a Storm," a release by Damien Jurado. (Mama Bird Recording Co. via AP)

Damien Jurado, “In the Shape of a Storm” (Mama Bird Recording Co.)

Damien Jurado’s sneakily quiet “In the Shape of a Storm” is as stark as its cover illustration, but within, the frugal sounds are rich with expressions of love, loss, hope, despair and humor.

Recorded in two hours in his new home state of California, the Seattle native’s 10 songs are immediate and direct, but their origins are often distant. Jurado is especially prolific and compositions thought lost or put aside nestle together here like once-close companions reconnecting like time hadn’t passed.

Even when wrapped in increasingly adventurous arrangements, especially on the albums recorded with the late Richard Swift, Jurado’s songs have always been distinctive. Performed almost exclusively on acoustic guitar, “In the Shape of a Storm” saves you the trouble of having to peel anything off.

Only Josh Gordon’s high-strung guitar adds a metallic brightness to a few songs, but it can also interrupt the intimacy, especially on the title track and “Silver Ball,” where interspersed doo-doo-doos make the last lines — “Time does not heal/Everything an end” — much less definitive, nearly celebratory.

On “Anchors” seemingly innocent prospects — “I still go on seeing you as mine/Just not at the present time” — are paired with a dour reality: “Untied to your anchor and I’m sinking like a stone.”

The endearing “Newspaper Gown” tackles commitment and expectations while “South” relates amusing plans among young friends — “You take New York and I will marry Lee/Let’s see who comes back worse.”

The more up-tempo “Where You Want Me to Be” has a Lovin’ Spoonful-like freshness and Gordon’s sparse guitar fills on “Throw Me Now Your Arms” ring like Big Star’s.

Intimate and vulnerable, “In the Shape of a Storm” is a delicate highlight of Jurado’s career.