Folk veteran continues success
“Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son” is the 11th studio album by Damien Jurado, which is quite a feat considering that every one of those albums since 1997 has received above-average reviews.
Producing high-quality work while continuing to grow and innovate over a 15-year career is not something the average singer-songwriter can claim, and on his latest release, Jurado shows no sign of slowing down. Jurado reunited with producer Richard Swift, who worked with him on 2012’s successful album “Maraqopa.” The duo sought to build on both the story and sound of that record while incorporating elements of the reggae and dub music they both admire.
There certainly is a story unfolding over the course of this record, but it’s neither overt or easy to understand. It wasn’t until I looked at the lyric booklet accompanying the album, complete with parenthetical stage directions and littered with dialogue, that I realized there was something more than song-length stories happening here.
It took the explanation of the concept behind “Maraqopa” for me to start to unravel this mystery, and to be honest, I’m still confused. The previous album is about a man who leaves home with virtually nothing and wanders to a place of self-discovery, called Maraqopa. Upon leaving he gets into a car accident, which is where “Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son” begins. Thankfully, none of this gets in the way of enjoying the album, and I think most will listen completely oblivious of the concept.
The opener, “Magic Number,” sets the tone for the rest of the album with an infectious drum groove behind a finger-picked acoustic guitar and an effects-laden vocal track. There is an interesting and largely successful balance being struck between the folk that Jurado is known for, and the reggae and dub that he and his producer are striving for. They have certainly made some incredibly danceable tracks such as the opener and “Silver Donna,” an open jam featuring a repeating bass, drum and bongo groove. Yet underneath all the percussion, trademark dub echo and distortion effects are folk songs, with simple chords and plaintive melodies. Listeners are even treated to a solo performance by Jurado in “Silver Joy” and the bare vocal and acoustic guitar fit just fine in this rather eclectic collection of songs.
Standout tracks are “Silver Timothy” and “Silver Katherine,” the latter of which is driven by a very pretty acoustic guitar track and then treated with piano, strings and vocal harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes. “Silver Timothy” is the most interesting track on the album, with a sound and instrumentation that conjures images of the American southwest, not to mention a really simple, catchy hook that you’ll be humming after a single listen. The weakest track on the album is the closer, “Suns in Our Mind,” a short song that ends rather abruptly, leaving the listener with an odd, unresolved feeling at the end of an otherwise terrific experience.