Slide guitarist and singer-songwriter David Jacobs-Strain grew up in Oregon, far from Mississippi, but found his first musical home in the Delta blues. "I've always been drawn to the dark stuff," David says. This young roots musician channels age-old wisdom and heartache with such energy and passion that you can't help but feel good, even about feeling bad.
You also wonder how one man with one acoustic guitar (at a time) can rival the sonic density of a jam band. "I really like getting a big acoustic guitar sound—not loud but with a lot of depth and space. It's all about having the flexibility to convey all different kinds of emotion," he says.
There are various references in his music—bluesmen Skip James and Charlie Patton, Afro-pop star Salif Keita, Indian slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, rock icon John Lennon—but his work as a whole falls neatly in the gaps between multiple genres. Dirty Linen says that "he doesn't just rock out: he's learned the art of crossing musical boundaries from the masters." Ask David what you should call his style. He grins. "Gangster-grass?" he suggests. "One-man arena rock?" A prankster peeks out from under long, dark lashes before disappearing behind the lanky singer's polite manner.
His latest release, Liar's Day, was produced by Kenny Passarelli (Otis Taylor, Stephen Stills), who's also featured on bass. He's joined by Joe Vitale on drums. "I wanted a big, aggressive drum sound—a Neil Young or Tom Petty sound—that still allowed space for the Traugott acoustic and National steel guitars. I got it with Joe and Kenny, Joe Walsh's rhythm section in the 70s." Together the three lay down solid grooves that massage away the sorrow of lost love.
The music isn't only about love, though. Long before being green became a corporate cliché, David grew up in a community in Eugene that was centered on cultural change and the health of the environment. He sees a distinct connection between the communal base of his upbringing and the democracy of folk music. "I'm really into hand-made culture—and real people making real music. The voice. One guitar. Even at its simplest, folk music like the blues has always been a vehicle for expressing your own situation, whether as an individual or a community. There's such power in that."
In his mid-20's, David is already a veteran of the national club and festival circuit. In 2008 he was chosen by Boz Scaggs to be the opener for his tour. David has also shared the stage with T-Bone Burnett, Bob Weir, Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, Etta James, Dave Mason, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. His festival credits include the Strawberry Music Festival, MerleFest, the Lugano Blues to Bop Festival in Switzerland, the Newport Folk Festival, the Telluride Blues Fest, the Vancouver Folk Festival, and the Montreal Jazz Festival. He's also served as faculty at guitar workshops, most notably at Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch. In 2009 he worked on a new album of mostly original songs produced by Nashville-based Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Ray Davies).
Empty Sea Studios
6300 Phinney Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
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