David Jacobs-Strain and Garrin Benfield at the Towne Crier

The Towne Crier in Pawling, NY has been around since 1972 (and under the same ownership for as many years, admirable in a venue), although last Sunday was my first time at the place. It is host to many superb musicians and bands and I had wanted to go there for a while, but the time and mileage involved had always been daunting. Sunday’s double bill was a show not to be missed however, so I finally made the trek (which, as it turns out, is a beautiful drive. Long, but beautiful).

Both David Jacobs-Strain and Garrin Benfield hail from the West Coast; David from Eugene, Oregon, Garrin from San Francisco, CA (although he was actually born and raised not far from Pawling, NY). Another thing they have in common is that they have both opened for Boz Scaggs in the past — Garrin during summer tours in 2000-2004, David in 2007. Their musical styles are somewhat different, but David and Garrin complimented each other well on Sunday, fitting together like two pieces of a folky blues puzzle. David opened the show, and as soon as he was seated on stage burst into song with a cover of Taj Mahal’s “Done Changed My Way Of Living”, followed by a technically wowing instrumental. Even if I saw David perform every single day from now until forever, I would never cease to be amazed by his guitar skills… I could hear a noticeable maturity in his songs since the last time I saw him, which was only back in December, and he has been reinterpreting the way he plays them. “Rainbow Junkies” is, in my opinion, one of David’s most outstanding masterpieces, and at the Towne Crier he performed it with tremendous zeal. Another highlight of his set was “Hurricane Railroad”, which had a real funk groove not present the last time I heard it. David called Garrin onstage to play with him for that song, before closing out his set with the rousing, yet touching, “Ocean Or A Teardop”, which Garrin played and sang along to as well.

I had never seen Garrin Benfield before Sunday, but am now a devoted fan. I really like the fluency of his playing; he is an undeniably captivating musician. If I had to pick a category to describe Garrin’s music, it would be more folk rock than traditional blues, but you can definitely tell that he’s influenced by the latter. His voice has a sweet tone to it, yet is as complex as his show was… He had a loop station set up onstage, which he would lay multiple tracks down on. He would then play improvisations along to those, creating the sound of an entire band while performing solo. At one point, Garrin asked, “How is everybody? Am I assaulting you? Dinner music!” at which point someone in the audience yelled out, “It’s past dinner! We’re drinking!”, drawing chuckles from everyone else. But if Garrin considers that assault, then let the felonies against him ensue! (Well, not literally…) Toward the end of the evening, Garrin was joined onstage by both his sister Claudia, who was in the audience, as well as David. For his very last song, Garrin played by himself (with the use of multiple loops). When he ended his set, he walked off stage while the tracks were still going, before walking back up a few moments later to slowly fade them into silence.

Music is very mathematical, but contemplating Sunday’s concert, modern mathematics doesn’t seem to apply. I enjoyed David just as much when he played a single bill back in December as I did last Sunday, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I would enjoy Garrin just as much as I did the other night if I saw him play a single bill, but the joy of seeing the both of them together was more than double the assumed joy of seeing them individually (which is not to take anything away from either musician). It appears that in this scenario, the whole was greater than the projected sum of the two parts. In essence, what I’m trying to say is, I had a blast!

Videos of David Jacobs-Strain:


Rainbow Junkies

Hurricane Railroad

Ocean Or A Teardrop

Videos of Garrin Benfield:


The Colors In You

The Loop

Standing On The Moon

Lonely Journey


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