David Jacobs-Strain

Liar's Day

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Jacobs-Strain's sixth release pulls the acoustic guitarist even further away from the deep country-blues that dominated his earliest work. While only in his mid-20s when this was released in 2008, he sounds like a grizzled veteran and plays with the passion, subtlety, and assurance of musicians twice his age. Once again produced by Kenny Passarelli who worked on Jacobs-Strain's previous two discs and also contributes bass, the sound is warm and inviting. Joe Vitale, another old Joe Walsh associate, adds drums and keyboards, fleshing out the sound for a more rock-oriented edge. Songs such as the thumping "Say it to My Face" find the players turning up the amps for a searing blues-rocker that wouldn't be out of place on a Walsh album. Covers of blues chestnuts from Mississippi Fred McDowell ("Write Me a Few Short Lines") and Robert Johnson ("Traveling Riverside Blues") show how far Jacobs-Strain has moved from the country-blues of his earlier releases. On the latter tune he approximates Robert Plant's lemon-squeezing vocals as the organ, piano, and guitar combine in a mix that moves it into the Southern swamps. "Christmas in July" is an upbeat rocker complete with an arena-ready chorus that's as pop as this set gets, for better or worse. Jacobs-Strain goes jazzy on "Black Glass Butterfly" as his husky voice meshes with a foot tapping, hand clapping, funky melody and some nifty fingerpicking that's one of this set's smile-inducing highlights. When he takes off into an acoustic solo, the combination of his Delta roots and a contemporary folk-rock sheen makes a powerful mix. Tunes such as the acoustic based "Rainbow Junkies" blend chilling imagery with sturdy, but never over the top vocals for a toxic concoction that balances folk, blues, and rock. Passarelli keeps the sound lean yet muscular when necessary, but it's Jacobs-Strain's sharp blues based, but not stereotypically blues, songs and passionate singing that make this his finest and yes, most commercial album to date.

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