J. Edward Keyes
April 11, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The sixth CD On My Way to Absence from Seattle’s musical Steinbeck opens with a shooting and ends with a burial. In the middle, widows weep, lovers split, and friendships go rancid with resentment. Other singer-songwriters might slather on the strings, but Damien Jurado — a gifted storyteller with an unsentimental eye for detail — makes minimalism his m.o. The songs are bare as winter trees, built from brittle guitars and crackling percussion. When they finally erupt — as ”Icicle” does — the contrast makes the combustion arresting.

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