"It's midnight, and I give up, tired of lying for you," Damien Jurado sings over neatly strummed chords. That's how we're eased into "Gillian Was a Horse," the opener on Caught in the Trees, Jurado's eighth album. It's the same territory his songwriting has staked out in the past: narratives of betrayal and unwanted truths, sprawling in scope yet intimate in their emotional navigation.
That said, Caught in the Trees serves as a subtle change-up for Jurado. Though bandmates Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad both played on 2006's And Now that I'm in Your Shadow, there's a newfound density and beautiful murkiness to these arrangements. Some of this may be due to the stability of the trio. "Very shortly after having Jenna play cello and sing for And Now that I'm in Your Shadow, she came along on a tour Eric and I were doing with Low," Jurado recalls. "And that was it. I knew. This was going to be the lineup I would play with, from here on out."
Conrad's warmly intoned backing vocals complement Jurado's focused delivery perfectly. She also penned "Best Dress," the first time a song written by a bandmate has appeared on a Jurado album since 2002's I Break Chairs. "Last Rights," Caught's midpoint, feels like a condensation of all that's right on the album: the interplay between precise acoustic guitar and strings, the heartbreaking earnestness of Jurado's delivery and Conrad's harmonies, and the way the song's melody echoes into the distance.
"After 10 years of doing music I am finally in a place where I'm comfortable and happy with who I am as a musician," Jurado writes via email. "Every album felt like I was doing my best to be a permanent fixture." As for the hard lives of the characters he sings about, Jurado is less certain. "I've been finding out a lot lately that I just don't know the reason behind most of the songs I write," he explains. "I once had this dream where I lived in this town with all of them. We had no outside visitors driving through to see the sights. It was really quite depressing." It's an image at once surreal, wistful, and quietly mournful—and unquestionably Damien Jurado.