August 30, 2003

Damien Jurado "Holding His Breath"

Damien Jurado is a man who continually grows darker, darker, darker, and this little five-song EP--hot on the heels of his most recent album, Where Shall You Take Me--is a most dark, melancholy affair. Losing a lot of the louder sounds of his past few albums, Holding His Breath is largely an acoustic affair, even though he has a band accompanying him.

For Holding His Breath, Jurado offers up three originals with two interesting covers. For a man whose voice is quite distinctive, Jurado sounds not unlike Will Oldham on "I Am The Greatest of All Liars" and "Oh Death art With Me." (Both songs have Oldhamesque titles as well!) The third of Jurado's originals, "Big Let Down," is a remake of one of his older songs; it's similar in style to his earlier work, and he's joined by the always lovely Rosie Thomas as well. "I Am The Greatest of All Liars," Jurado sounds ready to explode, and is at his most intense, even if the song is a brief minute and a half.

The last two songs on Holding His Breath are covers. "Now You're Swimming" is a slowed-down harrowing version of a 764-Hero song, and is perhaps the most disturbing track on the record. He accompanies himself on backing vocals, though the 'backing vocals' are nothing more than distant yelling, and at times, it sounds a lot like The Wall-era Roger Waters. It's a disturbing song, yet he makes it all his own. The final song is "Butcher Boy," by Peggy Seeger, establishing Jurado's link to more traditional folk music.

Jurado is quietly earning respect for his fine songwriting skills, and for good reason. His flair for the dramatic, painted with realistic strokes, is one that is not easily approached, and he is indeed in a league of his own. Holding His Breath is a fine edition to Jurado's catalog. Well worth seeking out, and a wonderful slice of modern Americana.

--Joseph Kyle

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