Damien Jurado: Where Shall You Take Me?

Damien Jurado: Where Shall You Take Me?

In a recording career marked by raw, intimate moments and the occasional daring experiment–most notably an album consisting of haunting voice messages culled from used cassette tapes found at thrift stores–Damien Jurado last year made another hairpin turn. On I Break Chairs, credited to Damien Jurado And Gathered In Song, the singer shelved his hypnotic, achingly forlorn solo material in favor of rougher, guitar-driven rock, a move that alienated many of his fans. It's hard to imagine anyone familiar with Jurado's music abandoning him altogether, but those who did would be foolish not to rush back into the fold for Where Shall You Take Me? Following an unsteady but underrated album with his most rewarding and assured work yet, Jurado continues to demonstrate his mastery of skillful observation and emotionally direct narrative, setting the bar high on the unsettlingly portentous "Amateur Night" before soothing frayed nerves on the warm "Omaha." At times, particularly on "Abilene" and "Window," Jurado taps into the rustic drama of Will Oldham at his most inviting and incisive, but Where Shall You Take Me? dispenses nostalgia even more engagingly on the subtly joyous "Matinee." With 10 songs breezing by in little more than half an hour, the album occasionally threatens to slip by virtually unnoticed, but even when relegated to background noise, it re-establishes Jurado's uncanny ability to take up residence under the skin. When absorbed with undivided attention, it's the singer's most riveting and satisfying work yet, and that's saying a lot.

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