Damien Jurado, Anais Mitchell

Damien Jurado

Urban folk singer/songwriter Damien Jurado quietly built up one of the strongest catalogs on the indie scene, earning high critical praise yet somehow never quite getting his proper due. Nick Drake had a definite impact on much of his work, but Jurado modeled his career on more idiosyncratic, unpredictable figures like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, or Randy Newman -- songwriters who followed their own muse wherever it took them, whether fans and critics agreed or not. His independent-mindedness was born at least in part from the influence of punk, and one of the results was a concern for emotional authenticity that led him to delve into other people's lives instead of his own. Many of Jurado's best songs spun concise, literate tales of quiet everyday despair, which often earned him comparisons to short story writer Raymond Carver. But his storytelling bent -- not to mention his ambivalence toward confessional material -- arose from a stronger grounding in traditional folk than spiritual compatriots like Elliott Smith or Cat Power. And with detours into pop, roots rock, full-fledged electric indie rock, and even found-sound experiments, Jurado ensured that his body of work was impossible to completely pin down.

Picture this American scene: two friends rolling down I-40 somewhere outside
Nashville, singing out the open window. The backseat is a jumble of guitars, boots,
takeaway plates from a roadside BBQ, and paperback books. But the song? The song
goes like this: "As I walked out over London Bridge, on a misty morning early…"
And the books? A five-volume set of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads—the
Child Ballads (For the uninitiated, these aren't kids' songs—they're a nineteenth
century anthology named after their collector, Sir Francis James Child).

The friends are Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, two songwriters who coarranged
a selection of epic old folk songs from across the Atlantic for their current
release Child Ballads. For Mitchell, this recording comes on the heels of 2010's
Hadestown and 2012's Young Man in America. Both albums are big on story; the first
is a folk opera, while the second was described by the Independent on Sunday as 'an
epic tale of American becoming'. Hamer began his career with the Colorado roots
rock band Great American Taxi, but moved to New York in 2008 to pursue
songwriting and a passion for Irish traditional music.

Mitchell and Hamer quickly discovered their shared love of Celtic and British Isles
ballads, especially the classic folk albums of the 1970s – Martin Carthy's Crown of
Horn, Nic Jones' Penguin Eggs, Andy Irvine & Paul Brady - and made a plan to
arrange and record some of their favorites together. But what began as a whimsical
side project evolved into a serious collaborative endeavor spanning several years,
three separate recording attempts, and a whole lot of cutting room floor as the pair
navigated their way through a centuries old tradition.

The resulting album was recorded by producer/engineer Gary Paczosa (Alison
Krauss, Dolly Parton) at his Minutia Studio in Nashville in early 2012. The
production is minimal, and the songs are driven by two-guitar arrangements and the
kind of close harmonies that call to mind Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris or an
acoustic Fleetwood Mac. "We kept thinking back to those records we loved so much,"
says Mitchell, "and finally decided that what the songs wanted was to be presented as
simply as possible; melody, harmony, acoustic instruments, live taping—the stories
really out front."

There is something about the trans-Atlantic conversation—Americans tackling Celtic
and British music and vice-versa—that is perennially inspiring to artists on both sides
of the pond. The Child Ballads enjoyed a brief renaissance in the states in the early
sixties when artists like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performed and recorded them—and
Dylan's early songwriting, of course, bears the mark of that era. More recently, indie
rock outfits like the Decemberists and the Fleet Foxes have taken their hand to the
canon.

"The language, and the music, is both familiar and exotic at the same time,"
says Mitchell. "It's inspiring, and it's a rabbit-hole. It's no wonder it took us so long."
"I'm not sorry it did," Hamer reflects. "I'd say the songs worked on us as
much as we worked on them."

Courtney Marie Andrews

Courtney Marie Andrews is an American singer/songwriter. When she isn't touring many lands, she is writing and recording in her secret cave.

Andrews began songwriting at the age of 15 and released her first album Urban Myths in 2008 on River Jones Music when she was 18. She attended Barry Goldwater High School for two years and transferred to the Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, graduating in 2009.

She has been a top 10 seller in Phoenix since 2008, and has performed alongside bands from Sub Pop, Barsuk, and Saddle Creek. Andrews has also performed at annual festivals in Phoenix. In 2008 she participated the First Annual Winter Folk Festival at Modified Arts. She participated in the 2009 Summer Folk Festival, the 2010 Final Folk Festival, and the 2011 RJM & Friends Fest.

In September 2009, Jim Adkins of the band Jimmy Eat World asked Courtney to do a duet of a Wilco song featuring Feist with him live on stage. In 2010, Andrews recorded backup vocals for Jimmy Eat World on 5 songs for their album Invented. She subsequently joined them on stage to perform during the album's release and full 2010/2011 tours.

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Damien Jurado, Anais Mitchell with Courtney Marie Andrews

Tuesday, January 21 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at ArtsRiot

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