It's strange how the blues, a form of music long associated with venerable African Americans, produces so many pimply Caucasian wunderkinds. Oregon-based David Jacobs-Strain is the latest, and one of the more promising examples of this phenomenon.
The 21-year-old Jacobs-Strain took up guitar at the age of nine and dedicated himself to the bottleneck slide four years later, after watching Bob Brozman demonstrate its wonders at a blues festival. A recording veteran by the time he was old enough to enter most of the venues where he was booked, Jacobs-Strain - like most of his blues-phenom peers - makes a more compelling guitarist than vocalist or songwriter.
His preternaturally deep voice and vaguely world-beat leanings can make his original material disconcertingly reminiscent of the Dave Matthews Band. But as an instrumentalist, he's simply remarkable. Schooled in the Robert Johnson method of simultaneously holding down the rhythm and augmenting that rhythm with short slide-guitar phrases, Jacobs-Strain demonstrates rare technique and sensitivity.
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Thurs, June 2
Luna Fine Music Club
6740 San Pedro
His take on Sleepy John Estes' "The Girl I Love" (available on Jacobs-Strain's 2004 CD, Ocean Or A Teardrop) is a classic example. Leaping from lightning-quick acoustic fingerpicking to percussive strums that suggest the influence of Ani DiFranco or Richie Havens, Jacobs-Strain adds bottleneck slide to provide a response to his vocals. Surrounding such moments of traditional mastery with originals such as "Take My Chances" creates a stylistic disconnect that Jacobs-Strain will need to sort out on subsequent releases, but he's got plenty of time for that. •