Damien Jurado Where Shall You Take Me?

At the risk of dismissing a talented songwriter and his vision, over the last few releases Damien Jurado has made records that sound like projects. His last was the "rock" record with a band called Gathered In Song; before that, Ghost of David was the depressing one. This latest, Where Shall You Take Me? is the Appalachian stories and songs effort. It's a good move, playing to Jurado's strengths, which are in creating an intimate atmosphere and whispering out a heartfelt (or broken) ode. Sonically, this album gestures towards, but doesn't commit to a number of directions - hints of country, touches of bluegrass, a smidgen of folk - but Jurado remains too tied to the studio as a mood enhancer to fully embrace those styles and their fundamentally non-technological sounds. Instead he creates an atmosphere by drenching every moment in Grand Canyon-sized echo, which can get distracting after a while. Jurado's got the material, to be sure, but hasn't yet made the final leap to ditch all the frills and record a truly stripped down album that will properly put his broken heart on display. (Secretly Canadian)