Damien Jurado is one of the most interesting musicians working today. He may not think that, but he’s a modest guy. Jurado’s not the kind of artist that sits around thinking about how interesting he is. But take my word for it Damien, you are very interesting. Ever since he began his musical partnership with producer Richard Swift Jurado seems to have mined some mystical well that lay dormant inside of him for years. St. Bartlett was the “feeling each other out” record. It was like Jurado was getting fitted with a handmade Italian suit and Swift was taking his measurements; bringing things out and pulling things back in until that suit was a perfect fit. Maraqopa was the debut of that perfectly fitted suit and of Jurado’s album concept that would last through his newest endeavor, Visions of Us on the Land. In-between those was the brilliant Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son. Actually, all three of these records are brilliant. The concept running through these three albums is a little foggy to me, but the best concept records are foggy. If everything is laid out and explained there’s nothing left to the listener’s imagination. With Maraqopa, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, and now Visions of Us on the Land there’s a through line that’s very spiritual; a story of finding some sort of inner peace that’s based somewhat on Jurado’s own spirituality. That’s really all I need to know, and that’s really all you need to know. Just close your eyes and go with it.
It seems with each record Swift kicked up the atmosphere-o-meter and the groove-o-machine. The psychedelic sway of tracks like “Magic Numbers”, “Silver Timothy”, and “Silver Donna” took this quiet and introspective singer/songwriter and turned his tunes into chunky groove numbers Santana would’ve blushed at. I mean, have you listened to these songs? It’s as if these records were unearthed from a time capsule buried in the Haight Ashbury district in 1972. The songs sound worn down to the nub and then refurbished using space dust and LSD dreams. They were aged to perfection the day they were committed to tape at Swift’s National Freedom recording studio.
With Visions of Us on the Land Jurado and Swift are finishing out the album trilogy seeped in spirits, the magic of Mother Nature, and freeing one’s own imprisoned mind through finding enlightenment. “November 20” keeps that groove heavy sound’s heart beating ever so intently. The song is ornamented in a steady rhythm, piano, and mellotron like some lost Nuggets track as Jurado sings “All is gold, all is gold, all is gold”. “Mellow Blue Polka Dot” feels like a trail song; men of a manly persuasion making their away across a deadly mountain pass, using the fading sun as their guide as this song echoes through the mountain’s towering walls. “QACHINA” is all bluster and drama with Jurado’s steadfast acoustic guitar strum and ethereal voice. The Latin grooves and percussive flavors only add to the songs romantic doom.
As far as albums go, this is an epic endeavor for the Jurado/Swift team as it’s a double LP coming in a little over 50 minutes in length with a hefty song count of 17 tracks. With that kind of musical girth Damien Jurado can mix up the grooves with more lighter, intimate voice and guitar numbers going back to his earliest records. “Cinco de Tomorrow”, And Loraine”, and “Queen Anne” are quieter numbers but are still anointed by Swift’s magic studio flourishes. “A.M A.M” has the feel of a lost one hit wonder from the late-70s. It also sounds like what My Morning Jacket tried with “Sec Walkin'” but never got this close to perfection.
If you’ve been on board since St. Bartlett and have loved the wave of groove-filled psychedelia over the last two records, Visions of Us on the Land is the exquisite period at the end of Damien Jurado’s wonderful musical sentence he started back in 2012. I’m sad to see this extended, trippy vision end, but excited to see where Damien Jurado takes us next.