David Jacobs-Strain at the Rosendale Cafe

David Jacobs-Strain is a  walking exhibit of the evolution of the blues. I say this because he draws from a variety of musical styles – not necessarily all strictly traditional blues – and shakes them all around before spitting them out through his guitar which is at the mercy of his fingers. He has the energy of youth, while having the spirit and experience of a seasoned artist.

Hailing from Eugene, Oregon, David is a young musician whose playing of the blues could certainly fool me into thinking otherwise. When he howls and moans, you can’t help but feel it cut through your own body. As for his guitar playing, his slide steel guitar is pure sweetness to the ears and soul, while his acoustic stuff is nourishing food for the heart. I had the pleasure of seeing David perform at the Rosendale Cafe on Saturday, and over the course of the evening he switched between the two kinds of guitars. Well, he actually had four guitars with him (two National steel and two acoustic electric). Although he admitted to bringing too many instruments, it was great to hear him play each one. While he sang, one of the four guitars wept constantly in the background, the base for all of the music (which on Saturday included a few Robert Johnson covers, such as “Come On In My Kitchen” and “Traveling Riverside Blues”). As he played, David’s lengthy frame hunched over his guitar, his shoulders danced with the body of his instrument, his left wrist flew up and down the frets, and his right hand moved fast as lighting over the strings. As all this was happening, he had one foot perched on a rung of his stool, while his other Frye booted foot stomped in time to the music on the wooden stage. He reminded me of my own family when he told the crowd about how he learned to play the blues by listening to Taj Mahal cassettes during family road trips to Utah, which his sister still hasn’t forgiven him for. I remember car rides of my own, my two sisters and I crowded in the backseat, our mom and dad up front, blasting any number of musical styles, including the blues, bluegrass, and jazz… One scenario in particular that I remember was a Saturday afternoon when we drove to NYC and were stopped at a red light with the windows down, listening to a bluegrass show on the radio. A car pulled up to the left of us, heard the music coming from our car, looked over, and then rolled up the passenger side window of their car. I guess it didn’t help my dad was wearing a flannel shirt, my mom had long hair, and three small girls were squeezed into the backseat of a Volkswagen… I don’t think they had ever encountered an experience like that before (and probably haven’t since). It was great to hear David speaking about his own family’s car rides, and him doing so somehow made me feel better about my own. And look how he turned out, an incredible guitarist! All due to those car rides he mentioned. There’s something to be said for families with a shared love for great music (even if David’s sister does still harbor a bit of resentment).

As much as I enjoy rousing blues songs, I’m also a sucker for bittersweet ballads. David delivered a few of those as well, including a new one he wrote called “Halfway To The Coast.” He also played a few beautiful instrumentals, after one of which he stated, “Sometimes it’s the shortest songs with the least amount of words which are the hardest to write.” Well, he does a great job on those, in addition to everything else he writes, sings, or plays. His guitar is a live and pulsing energy, fed by his own enthusiasm for the music, and it sustains the listeners heart. I love a good night of blues, and Saturday was one of the best I’ve had in a while.

Check out the videos:

Instrumental

Come On In My Kitchen

Traveling Riverside Blues

Kokomo Blues

Halfway To The Coast

Hurricane Railroad

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