When all you've got are your words, melodies, and voice, all three of
them had better be good. Self-styled urban-folk artist Damien Jurado's
new record, Rehearsals for Departure, is at times truly
captivating. Just not enough times.
Trafficking in depression is risky, too, especially if you're the kind
of person who turns in on himself when you get depressed. Often, Jurado's
songs are almost buried in themselves; only bits and pieces stick up.
"Tragedy" is a good example. It's the record's second track, after the
moody "Ohio," and it's got a great little melody on the verse, a little
off-center rhythmically and just jaunty enough to set itself off from
the lyrics. And you want it to take off, but it never really does --
the chorus never really propels the next verses.
About half the songs get a stripped-down band while the other half are
just guitar and voice. It's too bad that Jurado can't really carry the
songs alone -- sadly, he's got almost no vocal charisma, nothing that
makes you listen closer. When, like in "Honey Baby," he sings over a
band -- when he has to really sing out to be heard -- he
communicates, but alone it's almost as if he's talking to himself.
You want someone like Mitchell Froom or Los Lobos' David Hidalgo to take
Jurado under their wing -- put him in a studio with plenty of toys but
also insist that he cut the sh--: if he's going to make songs that
someone other than just he is going to listen to, he's got to reach out
more, try to communicate instead of just talk.