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Estrangement Gets a Lilting Makeover

Damien Jurado and his band explore an assortment of dusty acoustic hellscapes.
Damien Jurado and his band explore an assortment of dusty acoustic hellscapes.

Damien Jurado has experimented with everything from rollicking rock to electronic beats to found sound — even releasing an album of recordings he'd discovered in answering machines bought at thrift stores — but his stock in trade remains painfully intimate folk music. Traversing the barren and dusty acoustic hellscapes populated by the likes of Richard Buckner, Jurado makes music that seems painstakingly constructed for consumption at 4 a.m.

And Now That I'm in Your Shadow finds Jurado exploring cracked and broken relationships, backed by his ace band's minimal accompaniment: acoustic guitars, spare percussion, simple piano lines and a few well-placed strings and effects. Taken as a whole, the album can be a little punishing, but the gorgeous "Denton, TX" finds Jurado marrying his dark, estrangement-themed subject matter to a wonderfully warm, even lilting, arrangement.

With a melody vaguely reminiscent of Johnny Cash's "Long Black Veil," "Denton, TX" paints a vivid scene of lost and alienated love — "Not a letter was sent / Not a phone call was made / And I hope she comes back here someday" — and a place few people leave. Sketching out a few winsome particulars of an otherwise vaguely defined relationship, the song feels sullen and sweet, the way a fondly recalled love should.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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