Damien Jurado’s “Saint Bartlett”

“Saint Bartlett has a mix of sounds, ranging from the edge of rockabilly to the saddest melancholy.”

Guest Writer

out of 10

Damien Jurado
Saint Bartlett
May 23, 2010
Secretly Canadian

Two lovers in an airport, walking away from each other. They stop. One turns, then the other. They hesitate, and then, all at once, they run for each other, oblivious to the bags of other passengers, crowded airport terminals, anything hindering them from one another. Together, they embrace. They kiss. The camera slowly pans around them. Fade to black.

Damien Jurado’s Saint Bartlett cold opens into a violin-filled track perfect for a slow run in a film. It’s cinematic, image-invoking, musical pathos. It’s the best I can describe the beauty I found in the opening track, “Cloudy Shoes.” It is full of power and emotion, and floats with grace and ease, begging a listening ear. It is immediately followed by “Arkansas,” which is almost a 50s bee-bop recreation. Repetitive, upper octave piano with a simple drum beat reminds me of she-wop-she-bop and slow dancing in letterman sweaters and poodle skirts.

And every song on the album is like this. They each clearly paint a picture, instantly make one wonder who this audiofilm is about. It feels more like a motion picture soundtrack than a single musician’s album–each song stands strong and independent from the previous track, but Jurado’s story weaving and recognizable voice ties each track to the next. His is a voice that is often times eerie and at other times just nasal enough to give it a tinny texture.

The tracks are filled with extraneous sounds and instruments, giving it a pleasantly orchestrated and layered feel reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens. “Kansas City” includes the bent sound waves of an old dial-radio searching for channels. The build of perfectly layered guitar, voice and piano give the song a pared-down feeling without coming off as bare.

Jurado’s aching folk melodies, especially around the middle of the album, mirror Fleet Foxes, also Seattle natives. Maybe it has something to do with growing up at the base of Mt. Rainier. Maybe it’s the weather. Either way, Seattle keeps churning out folk musicians I adore.

Saint Bartlett has a mix of sounds, ranging from the edge of rockabilly to the saddest melancholy. Jurado is a classic singer-songwriter, capable of masterfully weaving storytelling with music.  If you enjoy Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine, then give Jurado, and particularly Saint Bartlett, a listen.