In his 17-year career of delivering tender transmissions of the heavy-hearted, Damien Jurado has become known as one of the great somber songsmiths of his generation.
Recently, however, Jurado has changed his tune. After a life-changing dream about a man who disappears never to return, Jurado’s sound and vision have evolved into a triumphant two-part psychedelic and cinematic soundtrack to his own soul-searching. On "Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son," released this week, Jurado returned to the studio with singer/songwriter and producer Richard Swift for a proper sequel to 2012’s "Maraqopa," the album that first references that dream.
“After I made 'Saint Bartlett,' my life just went to hell in a hand-basket,” Jurado confesses. “I wasn’t leaving the house. I got mentally sick. I had a few nervous breakdowns. It was a really bad scene, man. And then I had this dream and my life sort of changed after that. Sometimes change just takes a long time. It’s not always a beautiful process. Sometimes it’s ugly, and for me it was really, really ugly. Now that I’m on the other end of it, it’s great. I’m living in complete happiness and total freedom. My life is full of color and joy. I think if anything, the new album really reflects that.”
With a sound both ethereal and triumphant, "Brothers and Sisters" is as dark as it is dreamy. Lush and layered vocals culminate in falsettos that seem to soar to the heavens as the patter of drums and celestial shimmer of keys lead to a newfound towering sound. With his lyrics masked in metaphor and laden with religious allusions, Jurado is no longer carrying the emotional weight of his characters, but helping them find transcendence. This is no longer a trip through the terrain of traditional Americana, but instead a path toward salvation.
“I’ve completed the circle now,” says Jurado. “Up until now I made records that I thought would please critics. That’s a very hard thing to admit. I’m not a conformist by any means and I really hate bullshit. I was trying to please fans that wanted songs like 'Ohio' and 'Sheets.' I think those are great solid songs, and I’m glad that people like those songs, but those songs aren’t me. Richard called me out on it. Meeting him was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It reminds me of a perfect marriage. You are bringing out the most creative and unique things in your partner and they are doing the same things to you. That’s how Richard and I are. He made me throw down my guitar and say, ‘Screw this; I’m going to be exactly what I was created to be but spent years denying.’ And to me it makes perfect sense.”
So what next?
“There won’t be another part of the story,” notes Jurado. “This is it. There is no end to this story. I don’t know how this ends. It’s one of the many downfalls of waking up from a dream. It’s a bummer, but I can’t do anything about it.”
Jurado live is just a guy with a guitar, which he is OK with, but he wasn't always OK with that.
"Frankly I don’t get it. I grew up going to see Iron Maiden. I grew up going to see KISS in concert. When I go to a show I wanna see shit blown up on stage. I want to see entertainment. But I have to understand that that is not what everyone is into. Some people just want to see a guy with a guitar and listen to his stories in song. And frankly that’s what I do. And I came to this realization the other night. Finally, after all these years.
Damien Jurado plays Brighton Music Hall in Allston, Mass. on Thurs., Jan. 23, at Bowery Ballroom in NYC on Fri., Jan. 24 and at Boot and Saddle in Philly on Sat., Jan. 25.