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Reviews


Dave Rubin
Guitar One
November 2002


more reviews of Stuck On The Way Back
 

Cover Story: The New Guitar Heroes

The New Guitar Heroes: 10 Players You Must Know
John Mayer
Derek Truck
Jonathan Donais
Matthew Bachand
Dominic Cifarelli
Joe Bonamassa
David Jacobs-Strain
Nick Goodale
Eric Weaver
Johnny Hiland

David Jacobs-Strain

AGE: 19 STARTED PLAYING AT AGE: 8
FAVORITE GUITARIST: Martin Simpson
FAVORITE RIFF: Fred McDowell's "Red Cross Store"
FAVORITE ALBUM: Taj Mahal's Ooh So Good 'N' Blues
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Gillian Welch's Hell Among the Yearlings, Charley Patton
CURRENTLY ABUSING: Traugott Model R flat-top acoustic, National Resophonic Style

"I could just as easily have put 'Bob Dylan' in place of these answers," David Jacobs-Strain replies when the "Bard From Minnesota" is mentioned as a fitting comparison. "I never actually played any of his songs, but he is a preeminent influence on me and a lot of people, including many who don't realize it. Similarly, one of the things that I think I bring to my playing is an emotional abandon. I don't smash my guitars on stage, but I really try to let loose." Indeed. Stuck on the Way Back (NorthernBlues) reveals chilling original tunes that the solo acoustic blues artist takes to the edge with virtuosic slide and fingerpicking. Besides his fret-busting chops and barrelhouse vocals, Jacobs-Strain's deep knowledge of the past informs his music with an authenticity that is startling for his age. "I don't just listen to Led Zeppelin and assume I can play the blues," he offers. "A lot of people come to the blues or other American folk music through another avenue and bypass the roots. The music starts to lose meaning when you don't have continuity with history. Sometimes it bothers me when someone says, 'You sound like an old blues guy on the record.' [Laughs] Well, Robert Johnson died when he was only 27. The 'old blues guys' are only old because there isn't a continuity of culture."

Jacobs-Strain does not read music, and has no theoretical background. His first guitar was a cheap classical he bought at a garage sale, and his first lessons involved singing and playing songs, starting with "This Land Is Your Land," which he considers crucial to his approach of being a complete musician. "I got into blues not by listening to a guitar hero, but by listening to Fred McDowell, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bessie Smith, Taj Mahal, and my friend Walker T. Ryan, who pointed out that we are playing in a tradition that we are not of," he explains. "I always thought it was important to respect how heavy this music is not by copying it, but by expressing it, and that if you half-assed it, it was disrespectful. I'm not interested in preserving the blues, but in keeping it alive by building on it."

 



"I always thought it was important to respect how heavy this music is not by copying it, but by expressing it, and that if you half-assed it, it was disrespectful. I'm not interested in preserving the blues, but in keeping it alive by building on it."