Damien Jurado and Rosie Thomas

With Where Shall You Take Me, Damien Jurado has pared down his craft to reveal a gift similar to Bruce Springsteen's on Nebraska--the ability to render an old soul's stories in a youthful voice. This is not necessarily Jurado's own experience, but something deeper and darker and better-traveled. If his lyrical matter is sometimes simplistic, there's usually a sense that he's expressing a narrator through melody and structure rather than through poetry, a sense that it would simply be out of character to speak in more lofty verse.

At 31, Jurado belongs among the ranks of Richard Buckner, Gillian Welch, Will Oldham and labelmates Songs: Ohia, who have all channeled early Appalachian or Texan or Midwestern sounds into music that feels more like college rock and less like the Smithsonian Collection; these are songwriters with various degrees of twang eschewing the coffeehouse at all costs. And Seattle's Jurado manages to sound truly honest, even on the more depressive songs, without leaving the audience worried he's going to off himself in the tour van. It's an addictive concept that makes his live shows affecting as theater without histrionics, slices of Americana that are satisfyingly baggage-free. To those who have done their homework and are ready with a question, yes, Jurado is a devout Christian, which often makes his lyrics deliciously double-edged, whether you share his beliefs or not.

Touring with Jurado is fellow Pacific Northwestern songwriter Rosie Thomas, whose buttery harmonies grace a few songs on Jurado's album. Thomas is more traditional in her interpretation of the singer-songwriter role--more coffeehouse than prairie--but her voice is an undeniable asset. Pray (if that's your thing) that the two team up before the end of the night.

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Dylan Siegler

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