In all of Damien Jurado’s prolific two-decade career, In the Shape of a Storm is arguably his starkest work. And it may be no coincidence that it follows the passing of his close collaborator Richard Swift last summer, just after the release of Jurado’s The Horizon Just Laughed, his first album without Swift since 2010. While that album represented a departure from the more sonically soaring style the two had perfected across their four works together, In the Shape of a Storm more profoundly feels Swift’s absence. Recorded in just two hours in Jurado’s new home, California, it is a quietly urgent and present return to his folksier roots. As he sings in album opener “Lincoln,” “there is nothing left to hide.”
With just the accompaniment of his own acoustic guitar and that of guitarist Josh Gordon, Jurado brings a laser focus to his narrative. And that narrative spans the depth of grief, the fragility of love, and the resiliency of deep friendship. We feel Jurado exploring the idea of humility and solitude on the creeping “South.” On “Hands on the Table,” Jurado pays tribute to a loved one for breathing life back into him, begging for more time together. Like many of the songs on this record, it feels rooted in mortality and the sense that the clock is ticking.
The brightest moment on In the Shape of a Storm is “Oh Weather,” a brief one-minute plea for a lover’s return. Even in its sweeter moments, though, In the Shape of a Storm is haunting. “Anchors,” “Newspaper Gown,” and “Throw Me Now Your Arms” are love songs under a cloak of melancholy that somehow doesn’t weigh them down, but instead lightens them. They are tragic and romantic, conveyed through that familiar soft and smoky tone we love so well.