Damien Jurado: Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian/Rhythmethod)

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Damien Jurado: Cloudy Shoes
Damien Jurado: Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian/Rhythmethod)

With a lovely, sympathetic production by Richard Swift -- sort of budget-priced Phil Spector -- and melodies which swell with Fifties and Sixties pop-romanticism, this is one of those album (like Swift's) which will be taken to heart with a passion by those who discover it.

Previously Jurado out of Seattle came at you from the indie/alt.folk singer-songwriter territory, and none of that introversion and intimacy has been lost on this, his ninth, outing -- but now it comes with a backdrop of graceful strings or brittle but never over-powering guitar passages and sonic effects.

Up-front everywhere, appropriately, his distinctive, sometimes fragile voice sings of emotional displacement, uncertainty, discomfort . . . 

There are songs of ineffable beauty here: the simplicity of Beacon Hill and With Lightning in Your Hands at the end among the best. And the downward arc from the wide-screen open-hearted Cloudy Shoes and Spanish Harlem pop melody of Arkansas at the start is a journey worth taking.

As is often the case, there are ambient noise or found sounds woven through which create atmosphere and character: on Kansas City you feel he is singing in a coffee shop at the bus terminal where a radio just off-station and street sounds appear behind the gentle ballad.

Damien Jurado -- and Richard Swift -- have crafted an album that pulls you in with a whisper and beckoning finger rather than grabbing you by the collar.

Engrossing. 

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