It must be a big deal for songwriters – often solitary by nature – to land on a partner, or muse, who can push them to new peaks. Damien Jurado’s collaboration with Richard Swift began to bear fruit over a decade into Jurado’s lengthy career. It culminated in the ‘Maroqopa’ trilogy of concept albums; mind-bending, glass-eyed music influenced by the 70s Laurel Canyon and Jesus People movements. Jurado, who released 2018’s The Horizon Just Laughed without Swift, has spoken about how much the producer, who died last July aged 41, meant to him, and helped with his creative renaissance.
Although In The Shape Of A Storm was also recorded before that tragedy, it feels like a natural response to it. Containing tunes Jurado has gathered since 2000 but not recorded until now, it’s purely acoustic, with only Josh Gordon occasionally joining Jurado on high-strung guitar. Stitched together in just two hours, the intimate atmosphere is both stark and warm, spotlighting plaintive tales of loss, love and longing.
References to the sea, sky and stars crop up again and again as Jurado sings first-person stories – his imagery as evocative as ever. ‘Newspaper Gown’ is one of the prettiest lyrics he has written, it’s simple folk structure finishing with the couplet: “We can be married tonight/the news would astound/announcements made/from your newspaper gown.” Three tracks later, ‘Throw Me Now Your Arms’ is a heart-stoppingly beautiful love song with the author promising to “give up my life” to his rescuer.
While there are moments of bleakness (Jurado followers would expect nothing less), a feeling of resilient hope whispers through; along with an open-handed willingness to accept what can and can’t be, Jurado singing: “I still go on seeing you as mine/Just not at the present time”on ‘Anchors’.
Thirteen years from his last largely acoustic collection, the underrated And Now That I’m In Your Shadow, the artist’s website describes this as Jurado’s first ‘black and white picture’ album. Coloured hues will no doubt return, but in the meantime, the 27 minutes of In The Shape Of A Storm are balm to the soul.