For years I hoped that and waited for Damien Jurado to make an appearance on Mountain Stage, and last summer my dream came true. And, just between you and me, I may or may not have cried when he walked on stage. His set was everything I could have wanted — quiet, intimate, warm, and entrancing. I did not leave disappointed, and I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to see him live.
Now, on to Jurado’s new album, What’s New, Tomboy?…
This is Jurado’s third full-length album in three years, 19th full-length album, and his second under Mama Bird Recording Co. His last album In the Shape of the Storm was pert near stripped to the bare bones containing only Jurado’s voice and acoustic guitar with the purposeful additions of guitar by Josh Gordon, whereas Tomboy is more fleshy with organ, drums, and bass guitar. However, in the midst of the fuller arrangements, Jurado is able to maintain an intimate, incandescent warmth.
What’s New, Tomboy plays like a collection of character poems from a contemporary Edgar Lee Masters with over half of the songs named for their subjects. The first being “Ochoa”, a tribute to his good friend and collaborator Richard Swift (born Ricardo Ochoa) who passed away in 2018. Jurado’s tender vocals combined with his gentle fingerpicking and evocative lyrics creates a touching eulogy. Other songs included in his character sketches are “Arthur Aware,” “Francine,” “Frankie,” “Fool Maria,” and “Sandra.”
“Fool Maria” is a finger-picked beauty with poignant lyrics like, “I am only living sentences/ That were long before I got here/And you are proof in flesh/ That God himself is behind this/You don’t need to understand/But truly you must live it/And I want you to be free/And I want to be at ease” feels like a private conversation between lovers or friends.
While “Alice Hyatt” is seemingly named after the main character in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. The song has some deep, and, maybe not so deep lyrics like, “Michael was the alphabet/ Susan was a play/ I was busy being myself/ There are things/There are people…Walk on by…Leave it be.” The meaning behind the song may be too much to unpack for this short blog, but I believe the meaning of the song is be yourself, keep moving, and leave those things that can’t be changed alone.
Stream What’s New, Tomboy? Spotify; Apple Music
Purchase What’s New, Tomboy? Bandcamp; Amazon; Rough Trade
Damien Jurado: Website; Facebook; Bandcamp
Mama Bird Recording Co.: Website; Bandcamp; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; YouTube; Spotify