David Jacobs-Strain - Bio


Photo Peter Chapman ©2000

with John Cephas
Photo Michael Strain ©1997

  David Jacobs-Strain was born in 1983 in New Haven, Connecticut. As a youngster he moved with his family to Eugene, Oregon. In 2001 he graduated from South Eugene High School. He began accompanying himself singing on the guitar at age nine with the encouragement of Eugene folk singer and guitar teacher, Emily Fox. One of his first guitar songs was Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues". Within the first few months it was clear that the blues was where his heart belonged.

The first strong blues influences came from live concerts at the W.O.W. Hall in Eugene by Walker T. Ryan and Taj Mahal and from listening to recordings of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lightning Hopkins, and Robert Johnson. In the years since, Walker T. Ryan has worked with David as mentor, friend, and stage collaborator.

David knew that he was made for the stage the first time he played for an audience at the weekly Eugene Saturday Market in the spring of 1994. That summer he had his own slot on the Youth Stage at the Oregon Country Fair in addition to sharing the Shady Grove stage with Walker T. Ryan. He has performed at the Oregon Country Fair every year since on stages (Blue Moon, Energy Park, Youth Stage, and Rebo Gazebo) and as a "street" performer on the paths. In four of those years he was selected for a coveted slot in the fabled after-hours "Midnight Show" on Main Stage.

When David saw Bob Brozman¹s performance at the W.O.W. Hall in 1996, he was inspired to learn bottleneck slide. Just a year later, David opened for Brozman on the same stage playing slide guitar. David made his Seattle debut at the Northwest Folklife Festival at age 12 when he was invited to open the special Mercer Arena show "Passing the Blues" headlined by Billy Branch. In 1999 he returned to the Mercer Arena stage for the feature show "Northwest Masters of Blues Slide Guitar".

The Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop became part of David's life at age 12, which he learned of from remarks made by Del Rey in a live radio interview on KLCC "Blues Power". The first year, though he was one of just a few under-age participants, the perceived need for a chaperone quickly evaporated as he could always be found in the middle of a jam session, morning, noon, and night. The return to Port Townsend has been an annual ritual ever since. The impact on his musical development has been monumental. A number of traditional blues artists at the Workshop have been particularly influencial, including John Cephas, Del Rey, John Jackson, Steve James, Otis Taylor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ann Rabson, Jerry Ricks, and Orville Johnson.

In 1998, David was awarded a Portland Blues In The Schools scholarship to attend the Port Townsend workshop. Then, in 1999 at age 15, he became the workshop¹s youngest ever faculty member, teaching introductory blues slide guitar. He was invited to return to that post in 2000. Beyond the Port Townsend setting, David has gone on to share the stage with Del Rey and Steve James at concerts in Eugene; Robert Lowery and Alice Stuart at California's Camino Country Blues Festival; Otis Taylor at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts; Alice Stuart, Ann Rabson and Otis Taylor at California's Strawberry Music Festival; and John Jackson and Larry Johnson at the Swallow Hill Roots of the Blues Festival in Denver.

In 1999 and 2000 David traveled to Internation Guitar Seminars acoustic blues and slide guitar workshop in Santa Cruz, California, to study with Bob Brozman, Woody Mann, Martin Simpson, John Cephas, Mary Flower, Orville Johnson, and Bob Tilling. The Santa Cruz workshop heightened David's fascination with the roots music of Africa, the Middle-East, India, and the Creole islands. Much of his most recent work is infused with the overtones and poly-rhythms of these musical styles.

At the 2000 California World Music Festival David met up with multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven (also known for his percussionist role in the David Grisman Quintet). The duo plan performance and recording collaborations during the 2001 season, further exploring the mixture of traditional African-American blues form with the roots music from other cultures.

"The Future Of The Blues Meets The Traditions Of The Blues"
-Gavin "Rooster" Fox
KLCC Blues Power