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Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song and Rosie Thomas 

Our critics' picks in new releases

It makes sense to talk about these two Sub Pop artists together, having first encountered Rosie Thomas singing on Damien Jurado's 2000 release, Ghost of David. That disc was a rather stark affair, with Jurado accompanied on several songs by just acoustic strumming and/or a piano that seemed to be drifting in through a next-door window.

The music on Thomas' debut is often similarly subtle (although the piano appears to be in the same room), and she reveals the same knack for gentle melodies possessed by your Josh Rouses and Ron Sexsmiths. It's a quiet collection of songs that tend to spotlight the lyrics, and in Thomas' case, that's definitely a plus. "Wedding Day" brings together her best story and her catchiest tune; it's the kind of song that--on first listen--you reserve a spot for on your year-end favorites tape. Imagine a Lucinda Williams heroine embarking on a rejuvenating road trip after changing the locks: "I'm gonna stop at every bar/And flirt with the cowboys in front of their girlfriends," and you get the idea.

A couple of cuts on Jurado's new disc do hark back to Ghost of David, including the album's wonderfully atmospheric centerpiece, "Air Show Disaster," the only song not written by Jurado. However, for the most part it's a louder and livelier outing. A couple of cuts, most notably the album-opening "Paperwing," even bring to mind the roots clamor of Uncle Tupelo circa Still Feel Gone. And when the commotion dies down on "Dancing," with Jurado intoning in his captivatingly imperfect voice, "Just sit down, there's no dancing," it's an oddly moving moment.

That's something else linking these two records: They both make solid emotional connections. Thomas chose to use a whisper, Jurado a wallop.

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