CANCELED: Damien Jurado – Tickets – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC – September 15th, 2020

CANCELED: Damien Jurado
Presented by The Grey Eagle and Worthwhile Sounds

CANCELED: Damien Jurado

Shannon Lay

All Ages
Damien Juardo returns to The Grey Eagle in Asheville NC on September 15 on the heels of his 15th studio album release, 'What's New, Tomboy?'


Throughout his 25-year career, Damien Jurado has been chasing the ghosts of the words in his songs. He rummaged restlessly between fiction and reality. He disappeared into disembodied dreamscapes and received resplendent visions. He returned to earthbound plains estranged by a world gone more cold and callous. He sifted through fogs of the past for unblemished truths. And throughout these myriad avenues and trials, Jurado came out none the wiser. It’s the damnedest thing when you think about it: a man who can paint such intricate scenes with each line leaving his lips, still sounding completely lost. The architect of his own unsolvable puzzle.

Truth be told, there is very little humans do know. The strands of wisdom tend to grow from the smallest of certainties we find solace in, the seeds yet to be sown. This is more or less the gist of Jurado’s 15th, self-produced studio album What’s New, Tomboy?, out May 1st on Loose Jurado turns a blank page, not preoccupied with prophecies of futures or pasts. “We are fiction as it’s written // The bleeding ink on paper,” he denotes on “Fool Maria” with a whispered assurance. For the first time, Damien Jurado sings to you: not as the bewildered extra astray on the wrong film set, but as the guide holding your hand, walking you through the scenery with experience and compassion.

What’s New, Tomboy? is an album that seeks respite in bare minimums and barren revelations: sometimes frail, sometimes affirming, sometimes wry, and usually a threadbare mix of all those sentiments. “When You Were Few”, for example, was written as Jurado was clearing out the bulk of his possessions. “I got rid of almost everything I owned,” he reveals. “It was almost like I had died, honestly. You know that feeling when someone dies and you have to clear out their apartment or their house? That’s what I did. It was as if I had died, even though I was still living. I donated five of my guitars to a thrift shop.”

Jurado’s decision to chisel away all of the materialistic things extends not only to the clarity of the words, but to the album’s production values, as well. Devoid of reverb and extensive tracking, this collection of songs is of the cut-and-dry, plainspoken variety, drawing influence from records such as Lou Reed’s The Bells, Wire’s Chairs Missing and Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure. Jurado: “I left out certain instruments on purpose, so you’re making space for the listener to fill in their own melodies and parts.” The bass guitar, nimbly played by Jurado’s collaborator Josh Gordon, is pushed into the foreground, acting as both a mediator between harmonics and an autonomous entity sprawling across the canvas. “I love Josh’s playing so much, and a lot of the hooks on the album come from him. It’s very Paul McCartney-esque... very dry, with the bass mixed in very loud.”

Indeed, the subtleties and simplistic things get their moment in the sun on What’s New, Tomboy?. Often times, a simple nod of recognition or a funny quip brings more comfort than some restless self-interrogation. More importantly, Jurado has stopped questioning the elusive nature of his craft. “I don’t think I’ll ever know what my songs are telling me,” Jurado admits. "I usually have other people tell me what my songs are saying. It’s really funny, it’s like having someone move to your apartment building who doesn’t speak the same language as you. But for some reason, you’re able to help them communicate a little better. You don’t speak the same language, and once someone comes along who does speak the same language, you start asking them what it really means, instead of how you interpret it. That’s kind of how it is for me. I’m always trying to guess what my songs are telling me, like a translator, but then someone comes along who knows the language, and they translate it back to me.”

Furthermore, What’s New, Tomboy? could be considered Damien Jurado’s finest collection of music to date, with songs exuding the inviting warmth of a lone porch light gleaming amidst the disorienting darkness. Though more stripped and grounded in their execution, songs like “Sandra”, “Ochoa” and “Alice Hyatt” are generous and candid in their vocabulary, eschewing the sometimes abstruse imagery of Jurado’s previous releases. “There is no hiding on these tracks.” Though What’s New, Tomboy? is the first Damien Jurado record that ends with a question mark, he has never sounded more assured and content in giving up his ghosts: “I’m only living sentences // That were long before I got here.” - Jasper Willems


There is an entire sub-genre of poetry devoted to rivers and their persistent, meditative flow. Emily Dickinson’s “My River Runs to Thee” compares them to the cycle of life, while Alfred Tennyson’s “The Brook” deems them eternal and Kathleen Raine’s “The River” muses on the dream-state they evoke. For transcendent folk-pop artist Shannon Lay, the river is all of the above: It’s the metaphor driving her latest album, the exquisitely uplifting August (Sub Pop Records, out August, 23rd)—which doubles as an aural baptism renewing her purpose for making music. “I always picture music as this river. Everyone’s throwing things into this river, it’s a place you can go to and feed off of that energy,” she says, “and feel nourished by the fact that so many people are feeling what you’re feeling. It’s this beautiful exchange.”

The album’s name, August, refers to the month in 2017 when Lay quit her day job and fully gave herself over to music. This was her liberation as an artist, and the album is devoted to paying that forward to her listeners. “It’s a thank you to the universe,” says the L.A. artist. The title track is a mystical, folk-psych expression that builds into a gentle gallop. “Open the doors that you cannot,” she sings with a feathery lightness. Notes Lay: “Everyone is capable of so much, but we have a tendency to stand in our own way.” The steady movement of the song captures the rapids of a river. “I was thinking about creating something with momentum,” she continues. “I started out with just the guitar and Laena Geronimo came in and added that gorgeous drone and when Nick Murray put his drum touch in there it was exactly what I never knew it would be.”

Lay may be the most chilled-out artist you’ll ever meet. Despite fronting her tranquil solo act and being a guitarist/singer in the indie-rock band Feels, she never pressures herself to overachieve. (Even though she regularly does—in a glowing review, Pitchfork anointed her last album, Living Water “captivating.”) “I learned to not beat myself up if I’m not writing all the time,” she says. “Music really does come in these waves of inspiration.” During the album’s graceful finale, “The Dream,” Lay addresses embracing uncertainty. “I’ve always felt like a lucky person, life is a dream and it is yours to manipulate. Create the world you want to live in, create your own reality, create your path. We have so much more control that we could ever imagine.”

With her life devoted to music, the artist often spends hours a day simply playing the guitar, challenging herself to become better “It just feels so good, doing something that is so much bigger than myself. I think so much of music is that, realizing that it’s coming from something beyond and you are just the messenger” says Lay, who took guitar lessons at age 13, which introduced her to Neil Young and The Beatles. After high school, she moved from Redondo Beach, Calif., to Hollywood and joined an indie-rock band. “It was an energy I needed to release,” she says. The exact type of energy may have changed, but her drive hasn’t. Her recent practice pays off transcendently in songs such as “Nowhere,” a wistful kindred spirit to “August” that evokes Nick Drake. “It’s about getting somewhere and not doing anything or meeting anyone,” Lay says, “the idea of just having a quieter journey, zero expectation.”

There are other lovely, solitary moments on August. The simple, soprano narrative “Shuffling Stoned,” for instance, serves no grander purpose than to capture a snapshot of the time Lay walked into a cool record store in New York City and watched the guy working there buy some weed off his dealer, as “this tiny, little spider crawled up on the records—it was such a cool, weird moment.” And “Sea Came to Shore,” in which Lay’s guitar finds its foil in a slightly askew violin, immediately teleports you, alone, to a breezy shore. “The ocean,” adds Lay, “is a good reminder of how small we are.”

August was mostly written in three months, during Lay’s first solo tour for Living Water. “For the most part, all of the songs were just guitar and voice,” she says. In keeping with the humbled, contemplative nature of August, most tracks clock-in at three minutes or less. She saved indulgence for the production. “Some songs as they were had this room to grow,” says Lay, who recorded the album with her longtime friend, musician Ty Segall at his home studio on the East Side. “I believe whoever you record with tends to affect the mood of music and Ty really brought this jovial sense that I hadn’t really explored yet,” she says. “Once you get rolling with him, he just throws these ideas at the wall. And you’re like, ‘I would never have thought of that!’ I couldn’t have hoped for a better guide and energy to help create this record.”

In this sense, the album’s opener, the mantra-like “Death Up Close” is also its centerpiece. “With that song, I wanted to recognize that everyone else is going through something and reflect on that. Don’t be so close-minded to think you’re the only one who’s got issues, in fact, find comfort in the thought that everyone is on their own journey” Lay explains. What starts as an Eastern-influenced song morphs into an avant-garde sound bath. “I had this idea of the violin ascending. Then Mikal Cronin came in with the saxophone and just blew me away. I love the idea of building a song like that, take people by surprise.”

“A lot of my friends who are really tough have admitted that they shed a tear when they hear my songs, and I think that really speaks to the visceral aspect of folk music,” Lay says. “It’s this ancient form of expressing yourself.” Think of August as a warm hug for your psyche. “I want to create as much music as I can,” she says, “and leave this spot by the river where people can go sit and enjoy.”

Venue Information:
The Grey Eagle
185 Clingman Ave
Asheville, NC, 28801