Listen: Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
Damien Jurado (Secretly Canadian, 2014)
Even if you’ve never heard Damien Jurado’s music before, you might know him by name. Since the ’90s, the indie songsmith from Seattle has garnered a loyal following and critical praise, spurning the well-trodden path of the acoustic pop troubadour for experimental freedom.
Ranging from lo-fi folk to sound collages, no two of Jurado’s records sound quite alike. If a thread runs through his catalogue, it’s the mournful vocals and melodies that recall Mark Kozelek and Elliott Smith, though neither is a perfect comparison.
The revelation of Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is that a more cohesive musical identity seems to be forming for Jurado. As one might expect of a spiritual quest in the hinterland, echoes of psychedelia are also present here. This is plainest on “Silver Timothy,” in which a bossa nova groove is enveloped by hollow clatters and wailing guitars, evoking a disorienting dream.
Perhaps alluding to the mysterious nature of speech in dreams, Jurado’s lyrics lean cryptic. On “Return to Maraqopa,” Jurado interrogates someone—possibly himself—with questions of identity and origin: “Are you a signal? Where is your station?”
Jurado is a Christian, and religious themes appear on this record, but not in a heavy-handed way. On “Jericho Road,” he sings of “resurrection” in distorted howl, almost a lament. That theme continues on the acoustic “Silver Katherine,” which ends with the haunting refrain, “Roll away the stone.”
While Brothers isn’t the most radio-friendly of Jurado’s efforts, its mythical world-making and bold musical choices stay with the listener. It’s not only a spiritual travelogue, it’s a glimpse of an artist reaching the height of his powers—a journey that has a certain mystery and beauty all its own.
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 5, page 42).