Damien Jurado‘s latest record Maraqopa, has been on my stereo pretty much ever since I got hold of a copy a couple of months ago. Before this record came out I was only vaguely aware of his work by way of a few listens to some of his earlier cassette only (a brave marketing move even 20 years ago) releases, and some of his early Sub-Pop tunes.
Tonight the Seattle based musician is in East London as part of his current European Tour, and he’s preaching to the mostly converted.
Opening with ‘Nothing is the News’, one of the more ‘rockier’ tracks on the new record, Damien looks like Tom Waits’s, madder, badder brother. Hunched up and scrunched up, mainly seated throughout, standing only to turn his back on the crowd, he’s a shy unassuming character, happy to let his songs do the talking.
There is a gentle reflective mood to his music that skirts around mellow Beck, The Doors and even Paul Simon, but is 100% of his own making. Underneath the atmospheric wash each track on Maraqopa is painted with, are songs of genuine emotion and feeling. Live, his young band bring the songs to life on stage and despite the slightly woolly sound, they resonate with every pair of ears in the building.
There are vague echoes of Neil Young in his voice, especially on title track ‘Maraqopa’, and if you take away the lumberjack shirt, the half masts, and the beards, his songs possess ‘pop’ sensibilities sitting somewhere between David Gray, Lou Reed and The Eels. In the opposite way Paul McCartney thought someone else had written ‘Yesterday’, part of ‘Museum of Flight’, sounds unconsciously like the bridge to ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay.
I’ve never peeled back his lyrics too much, you don’t need to go in that deep to get it, but you can tell his songs are written from the heart, not from an egotistical need to be heard.
News he is expecting another child sees him ponder on the types of songs the new arrival might inspire. Hopefully he’ll have time in-between changing nappies to put pen to paper. In the meantime there is plenty of good music to catch up on.
Damien loosens up as the gig goes on, and I am pretty sure a smile broke out towards the end of the show. He finished with Arkansas (below) from Saint Bartlett, without a microphone, just a guitar and an audience singalong.
It’s a lovely moment, and the world is a slightly better place because of it.
Fade out, this is where the credits roll…. until next time. Brilliant!
Pic courtesy of David Keen