Soft-rock love-in

Dolorian and Damien Jurado

Fulcrum Records, Wed., Dec. 10
On a cold rainy night you might gather with your friends to huddle on couches and floors, knees pulled up or hands in pockets in respect of the billowy chill outside. You might listen to music and sit close and speak softly between songs. If you’re lucky you did this last Wednesday, crowded on the couches and floors of Fulcrum Records, the coziest record store on earth.

It’s nice to remember what a joy it is to hear great musicians tackling great songs. The members of Portland’s Dolorian have apparently spent many hours hunched over their instruments. On this night, they managed a mastery that was never clinical; a blend of precision and taste that a thousand other bands forget to even attempt.

The songs, often slow but never plodding, were uniformly great. With its brushed drums and electric piano, Dolorian’s music at times approached light jazz, but this tendency was thankfully tempered by an obvious devotion to song over sound, to substance over atmosphere.

The last time Damien Jurado played Chico, he was uncomfortably fronting a rock band. Now, alone with his guitar, he seemed at home. His banter came quick and easy and was nearly as revealing as his songs, wherein simple stories of girls and boys take intricate and often dark turns. Halfway through the set, Jurado half-jokingly referred to his music as "folk," and who could argue with him? This is folk: man with his guitar, telling tales. He might have been singing about anybody, but if you were there you were sure he was singing about you.