Even for a fellow with no pretensions toward the avant-garde, Judson is a curious fellow. He's both straightforward and oddly mercurial. While his vision has remained consistent, his style has been known to change. While he's been sporting a straight-laced studious look for a while now, not long ago he was long-haired and shaggily bearded. But whether he's been rocking hobo chic or a Cosby sweater, whether he's being absolutely kind or letting you know that he's onto you and the lies you tell yourself, his music has remained solid. I didn't always have his back in this regard.

It took me a while to latch onto what he was doing as his current band was coming together. But something started to happen with the band's performances that made the material come alive to me in a way I'd been resisting. Perhaps it was the way his aw-shucks politeness had come to coexist with a frenetic intensity, an on-his-knees shredding that was as natural as it was unexpected. One second he's affably telling of writing a song in the Social Security office, and the next he's playing like his demons are trying to crush him through the stage floor. And I watched intently as "William Jennings Bryan" evolved from chilling violin showcase to a hellfire barnburner.

This prophetic streak has played out not just in his performance but in his lyrics, most tellingly in a song like "When Will The Paths Be Straight Again?"