Category: music


The casual appeal of Damien Jurado

DAMIEN JURADO Live at the Bronson Club, Ravenna, Italy 2nd November 2018

damien

Josh Gordon (left) and Damien Jurado at The Bronson.

When it comes to clothes, Damien Jurado doesn’t make a great distinction between street and stage. In a well-worn sweatshirt, ripped jeans and old sneakers, he gives the impression that he’s wandered into the club only vaguely aware that there are paying guests to watch him perform.

And yet, far from being slobby or disrespectful, his casual attire is very much in keeping with the un-showy style of his music. His songs never go out of their way to grab the attention but, rather, they have a relaxing and slightly hypnotic quality.

They are relatively short so, rather than telling complete stories, they take on the quality of brief, introspective reflections. His finest songs like ‘Over Rainbows And Rainer’ and, my favorite, ‘A.M.Am’ manage to combine elements of melancholy and celebration.

The only cover he plays is ‘The Novelist’ by Richard Swift who sadly passed away in July of this year aged 41. Jurado makes a touching tribute to his late friend who he frequently collaborated with.

On stage in Ravenna, before a small, attentive seated audience, he is accompanied by gifted guitarist, Josh Gordon. Remarkably for such quiet, understated music, his songs sound even more intimate in a live setting.

Between each song he spends a minute or two patiently re-tuning his acoustic guitar (“It’s like tuning a harp”). He doesn’t speak much but he tells a lengthy anecdote by way of introduction to ‘Percy Faith’. which he once heard playing over the P.A. while boarding a plane from Seattle to LA. He was the last to take his seat conscious that the other passengers, annoyed by his lateness, were almost certainly oblivious to the fact he was composer of the music they were listening to. Not only that, but the plane’s hostess was unimpressed when he told her.

This story illustrates that Jurado never really expects anyone to be starstruck or even mildly dazzled by his modest fame. He simply writes great tunes which he sings in a soft, soothing voice that subtly draws you into his world.

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To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2018)

vivThis is not a memoir about music but if you come to it as a fan of The Slits you will not be disappointed by the embodiment of the punk spirit that Viv Albertine represents.

In it, she describes herself as questioning, militant, aggressive, secretly shy, awkward, mistrustful and solitary. Continue reading

MERCURY REV live at Teatro Moderna,

Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy 13th September 2018

Mercury_RevThis is one of a limited series of concerts to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mercury Rev’s breakthrough album ‘Deserter’s Songs’.

At the time of release, this band from Buffalo, New York were at the point of imploding due to rapidly depleting sales. The songs were therefore composed with no real expectation that they would reach a wider audience and there was even some doubt that they’d even find a record label to put them out. Continue reading

David Byrne live at the Ravenna Festival (Pala De André, 19th July 2018)

band in motion

The band in motion

Expectations for this show were raised when David Byrne announced that this was his most ambitious stage project since the celebrated ‘Stop Making Sense’ Talking Heads tour which has been captured for posterity by Jonathan Demme’s groundbreaking 1984 concert movie.

Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint.

It is a visual and aural treat from start to finish not least because all the conventional trappings of rock gigs are radically reimagined and redefined. The show is based on the core idea of enabling singers and musicians to be mobile on an empty stage. Continue reading

ALL GATES OPEN. THE STORY OF CAN by Rob Young (Faber & Faber, 2018)

All-Gates-OpenThis is a long overdue, but slightly disappointing, study of the career and legacy of a remarkable and unique Krautrock band.

Author Rob Young’s approach is workmanlike although perhaps a little too much in awe of his subject matter. That said, he is well qualified for the task of writing the band’s biography since as he has written articles and conducted interviews over the years, mostly for The Wire magazine.

Gaining access to the inner sanctum of Can’s rehearsal /recording spaces gave him some insights into how their sound was created but despite his thorough research and analysis, the band remain wonderfully enigmatic. Continue reading

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