damien jurado – saint bartlett

he asked me how i’d been, i lied and then said that i’d been fine
in words that trailed off, that’s as far as we got
i know, i should have been thrilled

i picked something else initially, but could not find it anywhere. it’s a burnt copy, so it could be completely mia and never show up again.

but while looking for it, i instead found something else that had previously baffled me as to its location – and indeed, whether my recollection of owning it was real. it’s this.

i believe this was one i chose simply to download the album – which is unusual for me. don’t worry, it wasn’t itunes. but i knew there was a gaping hole in the form of a missing cover, artwork and connection to the production and recognition.

sorry, this isn’t very clear.

for a big, slightly scary-lookin dude, he has remarkable subtlety in his songwriting and performance. it’s beautiful. and it was introduced to me by john king. it bears some vague similarity to the previous album picked by pinetop seven. i mean this in terms of component parts – there’s a lot of piano; there are strings. but the results are actually vastly different.

several of my favourite songs of damien’s are on this album. a string of four run from wallingford, through pear, kansas city and harborview.

on wallingford, the not-overpowering but powerful electric guitar is paired with the highest he ever sings (which is nowhere near annoying) – both sound like they’re in an imaginary background. it ends in distortion of the guitar. it’s rock, but definitely not as we know it.

pear is a gorgeously quiet affair with found-sound making its way to the surface throughout, perfect acoustic rounds and his deeper but no less tender voice. it’s a remarkable love song – again, not as we know it.

kansas city is moving. emotionally. few other songs in the whole collection plumb the depths as much as this – especially in the music; the notes and chords; the relentless rapid cascade; the distortion of radio background noise. for an exercise in telling a complete story that is in no way forced or contrived, this is the ideal.

then harborview takes a military-like drum beat at points of peak, and at others the movement of his story combines with the sparse acoustic plucks; and towards the end there is a pajo-like electric solo that tops it off perfectly.

at the end, there is another amazing piece. i made a very odd choice to include beacon hill on the last mixtape i made for a man. it was made in the death throes, and gifted in the letterbox. thanks were given and received, though i am not entirely sure why. it tells a heart-breaking story of mental illness, which had nothing to do with either him or me. but it is spectacular. i think it was a recognition of the end, and articulated that so indescribably genuine.

the album ends, and i mean ends, on with lightning in your hands. okay, maybe i said a few sentences earlier that kansas city rends the heart into pieces. this song happens to be an even more intense study – in which his voice is at its most stunning, and the song at its most simple.

with music like this, it’s hard for me to explain why it just makes perfect sense, and why i attach to it so quickly and wholly.

damn it, i’m so glad i found it again.

oh if you return to me


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