Damien Jurado

In the Shape of a Storm

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A bit of an outlier at the time of its arrival over 20 years into his career, In the Shape of a Storm marks a few firsts for singer/songwriter Damien Jurado. For one, it's his first album to be recorded following a move to Los Angeles after four-and-a-half decades in his hometown of Seattle. The result of a two-hour recording session using only Jurado's voice, acoustic guitar, and occasional additional guitar by Josh Gordon, it's his sparest album and quickest turnaround yet. Finally, the set collects songs that were written over the course of his career, but which never reached the final-mix stage. What isn't new or remarkable for Jurado is the songs' elegant, haunting quality and evocative turns of phrase that guide listeners through sketches of places, remembrances, and fleeting thoughts and emotions conceived as early as 1998's "Lincoln," the album's delicate opening track. Later, the bittersweet title song asks "If I showed up in the shape of a storm/Would you recognize me?" Unlike "Lincoln," that song's second half adds subtle glistening guitar by Gordon, near the entrance of the line "And cause the sky to open." Elsewhere, among other references on the album to things like the sun, tides, and the environs, "Oh Weather" is a love song about trying to get home in a storm. Affectionate more often than melancholy, the set also includes the bouncy "Where You Want Me to Be," which could pass for a lost Buddy Holly tune. While Jurado's catalog already included examples of solo acoustic material, and beautiful as many of his dreamier and more psychedelic arrangements are, In the Shape of a Storm makes more evident how compelling and affecting his songs are, laid bare. He still can't resist just a few effects, however, most conspicuously on penultimate track "Silver Ball." Full of harmonic tension, its trippy sensibility and almost celesta-like second guitar are reinforced by selective echo (a word that appears in the lyrics). Although the songs were not conceived as an album and, therefore, don't carry quite the weightiness of some of the Jurado's most profound works, In the Shape of a Storm still seems essential as a showcase of his songcraft at its most elemental.

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