HOUSE CONCERTS YORK "one of the top 10 venues for up and coming acts" BBC6 Music

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Damien Jurado & Richard Swift - 28 September 2010

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Review of the show: Paul Rhodes. October 2010

"It was a coup for York’s most up and coming venue to secure monosyllabic Americana hero Damien Jurado.

Worn down by three months incessant touring, the atmosphere at this intimate venue served to revive him as the set wore on.

Jurado’s producer, Richard Swift, opened the show. Arguably better known than the headliner, Swift seems to embody those late early 70s California sounds. With a strong voice and strident piano style, Swift was an entertainer, although shorn of his period arrangements only The Million Dollar Baby and The Song of National Freedom really stood alone.

Fame hasn’t really come calling on either performer. Ambivalence towards success was apparent in some of Swift’s lyrics, and Jurado’s body language suggested someone uncomfortable with adulation. In these X-Factor times, Jurado seemed at first an unlikely hero. Yet, with his deep-set eyes closed and alone with his guitar, Jurado was totally convincing. His hypnotic material could hold a candle to that of Jackson C Frank.

Jurado’s direct and deceptively simple approach is compelling. Despite the fact that most of his material is in the third person, whether on recent releases like Cloudy Shoes or the more traditional Abeline, the songs had a star-like quality to connect. Bad Dreams was a surprising, but effective, choice of encore, underlining his mastery of the sad-eyed tune.

Yes the numbers were all very similar. And yes it was a missed opportunity for both to perform together, but within his narrow confines and with all the obligatory disclaimers, Jurado is a king. "

He has a huge cult following, and rarely plays in the U.K. He is signed to the Secretly Canadian label, and has produced 9 studio albums.

We have been after him for years - chipping away - and this is a real break through, and coincides with a major European Tour to launch his highly acclaimed new album Saint Bartlett.

"Jurado’s honesty is now unprotected by the comfort and volume of rock, and on Saint Bartlett it is starkly demonstrated with expert musical control. The chilling close of With Lightning in Your Hands (which interestingly contains a reference to the title of his previous record) is as mature as recordings come, the hymn-like chorus and sudden finish bringing proceedings to a suitably downbeat conclusion. Clearly, the reduction in volume and scale has lead to fantastic musical growth – a fine, accomplished and emotional album that ranks among his very best." (BBC Music)

"as good a anything in the recent catalogues of his better known contemporaries, Will Oldham and Jason Molina."

"The songs on Saint Bartlett would be considered an achievement for any artist-- but the fact that they come 13 years into a career makes the album even more of a triumph."

"this lonely gem of a record is one to be cherished in full."

Saint Bartlett opens up with a grandiosity yet unheard on a Damien Jurado album. It strips away the many layers of paint from the house down the street where we know Jurado has occupied for the last decade. The new coat is exhilarating. It makes the whole neighborhood shine. It's a modest grandiosity; still homegrown. The mellotron swells, heavenly handclaps ring in stereo and big drums create a sky for the songs to fly in. And the words. Words spring forth from within the volcano of Jurado, full of hope. There's so much hope, in fact, that album opener "Cloudy Shoes" turns into a call-and-response with himself, as though it were a dialogue between two halves of himself.

"I wish that I could float up from the ground / I will never know what that's like"

Heavy stuff. Richard Swift's Spector-esque production is spot-on. He ferries Jurado across the river, where the metamorphosis occurs. He then ferries him back, and it is through Swift's lens that we see Jurado not as a folk singer, but as a mystic -- somewhere between Van Morrison, Scott Walker and Wayne Coyne. Saint Bartlett was made entirely at Swift's National Freedom studio in Oregon, in just under a week with only Jurado and Swift as the performers."


Richard Swift

Singer/songwriter Richard Swift’s lo-fi, sepiatone style harkens back to the tin pan alley era. Born in 1977, the California native spent his youth locked in his room with a four-track recorder, a device that, along with a computer, he continues to utilize to this day. Influenced by everyone from Bob Dylan to early seventies dub acts like the Congos and Lee Perry, he has provided keyboards for shoegazeers Starflyer 59 and released two records of his own, Walking Without Effort and the Novelist, both of which were reissued on Secretly Canadian as a double album in 2005.