Initially released in 2003, Where Shall You Take Me saw Damien Jurado turn things down a notch after his David Bazan-produced rocker I Break Chairs. Reissued in two-LP form to celebrate its first decade of life, the record is now augmented by a series of basement reel to reel demos and the Just in Time for Something EP, which has never before been issued on vinyl. Perhaps it goes without saying that the record sounds as good today as it did upon its initial unveiling.
Most often, Jurado’s vocal delivery is ghostlike, the guitar figures haunted by specters that lurk between the notes, telling the stories of people and lives that have slipped into the beyond. The first three songs, “Amateur Night”, “Omaha”, and “Abilene” are perhaps the most haunting and haunted, the listener unsure of what they’ve just opened the door to as Jurado’s first words, “First came the screams and blood on the floor / The alcohol and the magazines / In my flashlight you’re a star,” prove among the most arresting to ever open a record of this ilk. Each of those tunes feels like a three-minute novel, a lifetime lived in the space of a television commercial break.
The arrival of electric guitars on “Texas to Ohio” is a jolting revelation, although one that doesn’t destroy portraits painted in the earlier numbers, nor is it entirely indicative of what comes later as Jurado slips back into the acoustic setting for the rest of the record. But whereas the early songs feel like defeat, there’s a ray of light in “Window” (one of three numbers to feature guest vocals from Rosie Thomas) and even comfort in the terminally sad (and beautifully simplistic) “I Can’t Get Over You”. In those initial tunes and in their primary setting, Jurado majestically captured snapshots of both bygone eras and bygone lives.
The demos included on the third side of this vinyl release demonstrate a few things. Mainly that no matter what sounds they were augmented with in their finished form, these songs were from the beginning works of beauty that can be reduced to those barest elements and still thrive. The guitar strings sound rusty as hell and Jurado sometimes sounds like he’s singing quietly so as not to call attention to what he’s building in there, but all of that only adds to the charm; “Amateur Night”, it should be said, sounds almost cheerful in this form, making it all the more disturbing.
Those who appreciated the Just in Time for Something EP the first time around will rejoice in hearing it on vinyl, which adds a new texture to its homespun vibe. Like the above mentioned demos, the material on Just in Time was recorded on reel to reel in Jurado’s basement.
Perhaps it’s little surprise to discover that Jurado has dedicated the album to his friend Jason Molina, who passed earlier this year. Molina, Jurado has said, walked him through the doors of Secretly Canadian and essentially set his career as a recording artist in motion. Though he’s not a Molina clone, Jurado shares some unmistakable gifts with that man, especially the ability to see truth and speak beauty.