|The influences on young acoustic bluesman David Jacobs-Strain are hardly unexpected
- Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lightnin' Hopkins, Skip James - but listeners may find themselves comparing him to
Kelly Joe Phelps, particularly since he moved from Connecticut to Eugene, Or., at a young age. It's hard to grant
much credit to a blues musician who isn't even old enough to drink -- Jacobs-Strain turned 19 in August -- particularly
since the blues education of many young guitarists seems to begin and end with Stevie Ray Vaughn. That comparison
to Phelps isn't arbitrary, though, and Jacobs-Strain, who began playing guitar at age 9, has the mature tough and
thoughtful songwriting usually associated with a much older artist. So forget about his age, and concentrate on
the delights of his fourth album, 'Stuck on the way back.'
The original "River was Green" features Jacobs-Strain deft guitar and strong, soulful vocals. He doesn't quite have a bluesman's growl yet, but he'll grow into that. "Bowlegged Charlie" comes courtesy of mentor and labelmate Otis Taylor and Jacobs-Strain also covers "Poor Black Mattie," filtering R.L. Burnside's Mississippi hill-country sound through his own distinctive style. He acquits himself admirably on traditional material such as "Wild Bill Jones" and "Linin' Track," but the real interest lies with the original songs. All are written in a similar style, inclined towards rippling guitar lines and a certain moodiness in the lyrics, but that still put Jacobs-Strain ahead of most of his contemporaries. Standouts include "Sidewalk Rag," composed in memory of the late John Jackson and containing some of the latter's lightness of spirit, and "Cold Mountain Blues," a testimony to the memory and preservation of one's roots.
By the ending of "Broken Wings," a thoughtful meditation on what it means to play in a genre with such a strong traditional element, it's clear that Jacobs-Strain has the potential to be one of the traditional acoustic blues' brightest lights. If he's this brilliant now, imagine what he'll be like at 99."