"Where Shall You Take Me?"
Out March 18, 2003 on Secretly Canadian)
Damien Jurado has a voice like a young Bruce Springsteen affecting a soft Southern drawl, and his music is the perfect example of an indie-rock subgenre with the laughable yet oddly appropriate name "Adult Contemporary." There are no angst-ridden hooks to be found here, but plenty of despair and the holding up of mirrors to the human condition.
On his fine new album, "Where Shall You Take Me?," Jurado reflects the world with solemn and mature style. Tracks like "Abilene" and "Window" take cues from the old-time folk songwriting convention (Hank Williams Sr., Leadbelly) of simple, sad songs of heartbreak and loneliness, with Jurado adding his own modern tilt to the lineage. Jurado's songwriting is solid, if sometimes slightly bland -- but a lack of idiosyncrasy is to be expected when an artist references such a recognizable, well-mined sound.
A verse from the standout "Intoxicated Hands," delivered in an appropriately familiar and haunting voice, communicates the scope of the record: "You'll have the explanation / for that what has come about / I loved you seven long years / and now that you've found me out / just get out."