It's funny sometimes the outside variables that make
you listen to a new artist. For example, I have to admit that the new
CD for David Jacobs-Strain stood out in the huge pile of CDs we are sent to
review for me for a very personal, completely illogical reason. If you
remove the hyphenate Strain from his moniker, you have my late grandfather's
name. Now I'll be first to admit that it is completely subjective and
is no excuse to skip him to the top of the pile. Also, I'm willing to
bet that there aren't so many people out there with a grandfather named
David Jacobs that this artist will be able to keep food on the table and a
roof over his head. But damned if it didn't work that way for me.
Turns out that I'm glad it did.
Ocean or a Teardrop is actually the third CD
from this blues-guitar prodigy, who has been playing professionally
since he was eleven-years-old. He's in the young white bluesman mold
of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Lang, but while Jacobs-Strain can and does
rock out sometimes, he is also a student of the form. You can see this
battle of beliefs in the middle of the album, when on arguably the best song
of the album, an original called "Take My Chances," the guitarist blows a
rock-blues groove that would have been a smash hit for Eric Clapton about
thirty years ago, and then follows up with a lovely, faithful cover of Blind
Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man." The gorgeous and haunting
lament "Illinois" closes things out on a high note. There is
also a slide-guitar schooling in another blues cover of Sleepy John Estes'
"Girl I Love" and a churning, restless "Shoot the Devil."
Blues guitarists have been a notoriously hard sell
beyond a core constituency; for every Lang or Vaughan or Robert Cray there
are ten Danny Gattons, Chris Smithers, Doyle Bramhalls, Robben Fords, Marcia
Balls, Kevin Thorpes and Billy Joe Shavers. David Jacobs-Strain has
the chops and the songwriting ability and the voice to break from the pack.
I hope he gets the chance.