It’s been over a decade since I first stepped into the doors of my high school. Through those four years, my mixtapes — and eventually iTunes playlists — changed quite a bit. The Northwest music scene is constantly changing, just like my musical interests, so it’s few and far between that a Seattle act from my adolescence still graces my turntable.
Damien Jurado is the exception to the rule. Never quite stuck in a fast, brief peak of stardom and fad, though never, ever forgotten, he has proven that slow and steady does win the race. Along with The Photo Album, Winners Never Quit and This is a Long Drive…, Jurado’s albums were the soundtrack to my adolescence. But unlike all the other acts whose lives have, in one way or another, quite personally intersected into mine, Damien Jurado’s presence, both physically and musically, is something I’ve never experienced. Not to say seeing Damien is some sort of religious experience, by any means. But the chills and giddiness that possessed me last Friday, when the full band broke into “Cloudy Shoes,” is something I haven’t quite felt since my teen years.
Damien Jurado has consistently put out warm, hearty albums through the years, to replenish our dampened winter hearts, to empathize and sympathize with, to commiserate with. Saint Bartlett, Jurado’s 2010 release, continued on that path, remaining a repeat-worthy effort throughout the year (as was his single “Arkansas”).
During his performance last Friday at the Columbia City Theater, Jurado interjected stories of fatherhood, family, and touring between songs. He was not some man of mystery, some phony milking another set for a buck. Rather, he was a neighbor with great talent, and a dad with dedication. He was admirably candid, and his set wasn’t of self-aggrandizing proportions or fitted with ego-masturbating encores. He got the job done, and done well. His tour had been to promote and perform Saint Bartlett, and he did just that. Certainly not a three-hour set of greatest hits, which God knows after fifteen years of performing he could have done. He is an artist that keeps moving forward; he opened his set with two songs he had written earlier that day. And they were good. Not time fillers to show how he’s still a relevant songwriter.
Though set was filled with perfect renditions of Saint Bartlett tracks, packed with crisp drums, Mazzy Star-like slide guitar, piano, and even some glass bottle clinks, the stand-out, jaw-dropping track was his traditional folk re-working of his older track “Ghost of David” (off the album of the same name). Shrouded in darkness, Damien screamed to the rafters, left with only a mic and guitar to fend off the demons. The audience, packed full of writers, musicians, friends and family, were left stunned. If music could literally knock you off your feet, that single performance, that single song could have done just that.