on 18 August 2003
Where his recent excursion with his Gathered In Song collective, ‘I Break Chairs’ was a slight blemish on Jurado’s immaculate track record, ‘Where Shall You Take Me?’ has the Seattle songwriter back to his miserable best. ‘I Break Chairs’ had concerned me, as well as other fans no doubt, that Jurado had finally cheered up, and had dropped his acoustic guitar for a more electric sound. Thankfully ‘Where Shall You Take Me’ sees Jurado as depressed as ever.
The opening lines of album should mislead no one, “First came the scream / and blood on the floor.” ‘Amateur Night’ is a sullen acoustic opener that becomes so much more when it reaches its dizzying keyboard finale. Elsewhere ‘Intoxicated Hands’ with its eerie guitar creates an odd tale of love gone horribly wrong. Perhaps most terrifying of all though is ‘Abilene’; a story of a 19 year old girl whisked away by a “man without money”. Whether she is being taken against her will or not is never made clear, which makes the track all the more menacing. In fact, this lyrical ambiguity is something Jurado makes a habit of.
While Jurado’s voice carries the tenderness and fragility of Jeff Buckley or even Thom Yorke, the inclusion of Rosie Thomas on a few tracks is inspired. Thomas’ input is most notable on ‘Window’, an Appalachian hymn so pure it could have been recorded a century ago. Her glowing vocals also brighten Jurado’s tale of life on the American road on ‘Omaha’.
Only ‘Texas To Ohio’ recalls the slightly heavier work of ‘I Break Chairs’, but unlike some of the bland material on ‘I Break Chairs’, this track is mangled with some muffled vocals that recall ‘Dirty’-era Sonic Youth and a swirling keyboard sample. By the time the album closes with ‘Bad Dreams’ though, Jurado has returned us to unremitting despair. The sparse piano and strained violin take lyrics like, “And I have bad dreams / done so many bad things / so come save me from this fire” and stretch them further into darkness.
Fans of artists as diverse as Gillian Welsh, Sparklehorse, Ryan Adams and Johnny Cash will find a lot to like about ‘Where Shall You Take Me?’ On this album Jurado proves that he is truly in a world of his own. But a world this dark, few brave souls will want to join him.
on 27 April 2003
This is his fifth LP, I'd never heard of him. I read the review in Uncut and thought he sounded interesting. I was in HMV, I saw the record so I bought it.
It's one of the greatest albums I've heard. Ever.
On first listen it's a really beautiful slice of simple Americana. A little Sparklehorse-y in places, even Uncle Tupelo. he sounds a little like Jay Farrar singing one of Jeff Tweedy's more ballad-y songs. A few of the songs are near Traditional mid-west folk ditties. It's immediately very engaging, drawing you in as softly spoken murmurs of things not right emerge from the sparse arrangements.
The blood splattered CD design gives a very obvious clue, but it's onlt when you catch the words that you really get to understand that this is a very very dark place you've entered.
On opener "Amateur Night"
I am not an evil man
I just have a habit I can't kick
sets the scene, as for the next 30 minutes eerie little sketches of love, lust and murderous intent take you over.
Innocent litle folk ditties act as a prelude for the closing chapter "Bad Dreams".
And I have bad dreams
Done so many bad things
So come save me from this fire
a plea for redemption. But without remorse. A lone violin takes over and the words repeat to fade.
The picture of the electric chair inside the CD's case makes perfect sense.
It's a stunning record, musically simple, Jurado's cracked voice oft' complimented by Rosie Thomas' more classic notes. A drak Gram and Emmylou perhaps? Not really, with the exception of the Alt.Country rock of Texas to Ohio (a song about how love to turns to loathing as our host and friend embark on a journey of escape, from who, what or where we're not quite sure), this is not a straightforward country rock record.
Nick Cave sometimes springs to mind, plus trad Bluegrass, Raymond Carver, appalachian folk and Willa Cather.
on 28 July 2003
Damien has another newly acquired admirer!!! I listened to this album for the first time in the car driving through Snowdonia this weekend. the haunting, emotional songs were the perfect accompaniment to North Wales' dark, brooding, beautiful mountains! his music (like the mountains) sent shivers down my spine. a brilliant album - I will certainly be buying his back catalogue.
on 22 April 2003
Hey, this is the best he's ever done. Naked and beautiful. If you have never heard the man before just listen to track no. 2, then you'll understand. The only bad thing is that this album is too short, you could easily add at least 20 minutes without getting bored. Just one more underestimatet genius...
on 29 October 2006
Seems no need to add to reviews already praising this album, but just to say that this album is perhaps in my top five of all time. Breathtakingly powerful, cohesive and songwriting of the highest quality. Songs of murder, lost love, sorrow and matinees, these songs get under the skin after a few listens and leave you mesmerised by the end.
This artist needs more recognition. Unlike others who splash themselves here and there in magazines and papers, you get the feeling Jurado just sings for himself in his quiet, modest way. We are lucky enough to dip into his world from time to time.
A must buy!