Outside the Lines: Cris Jacobs Band
Current Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Most Recent Release: Songs For Cats and Dogs (2012)
For Fans of: Uncle Lucius, Gary Clark Jr, Lincoln Durham
If I had to make a list of current underappreciated musicians, Cris Jacobs would probably be number one on the list. Unfortunately, when I say “underappreciated,” I don’t just mean in Texas. Jacobs’ newly formed band released their first studio album exactly one year ago; an album that got little-to-no coverage whatsoever (Jacobs barely exceeds 1,000 followers on Facebook).
Why do I bring that up? Well, listen to the album and you’ll see. The album perfectly showcases all of the many talents that Cris Jacobs and his band are capable of. Jacobs is a multi-instrumentalist, singing lead vocals while playing electric and acoustic guitar, dobro, and even the diddley bo on the album.
Jacobs spent ten years with the also-underappreciated jam band The Bridge, who split up in 2011. After the separation, Jacobs formed a new band to match the unique direction that he envisioned for a more artistically satisfying and elegant project. Jacobs’ new project proved to be crafted much more around songs (melodies and lyrics) rather than the jam band consistencies of The Bridge. The band consists of a pedal steel player, upright bass, and two percussionists, all of which contribute to the unique brand of roots rock/Americana/blues that they play.
The album starts with the bluesy Rock ‘n’ Roll jam “Dragonfly.” The song begins with an electric guitar groove that will bring to mind modern contemporaries Gary Clark Jr. and The Black Keys. The groove doesn’t let up until about two minutes in when it shifts directions completely, leading into a heavy blues-rock breakdown reminiscent of Led Zeppelin.
The funky “Mama Was a Redbone” leads into the album’s best song, the beautiful “Be My Stars.” The song begins with Jacobs fingerpicking on an electric guitar, with the pedal steel adding subtle harmonics that compliment Jacobs’ honest lyrics. Jacobs’ vocals are top-notch throughout the whole song, with the chorus including a perfect mix of harmony, melody, and soul. This song was one of my picks for song of the year last year.
The psychedelic blues of “Stoned on You” sounds equal parts “Voodoo Chile” and “Red House.” Jacobs clearly channels Hendrix on this six-minute jam that will excite fans of both Jonathon Tyler & The Northern Lights and Uncle Lucius.
The bluegrass-tinged “Redemption Bound” begins with haunting, extremely soulful vocals, accompanied only by percussion. The soul only increases when the rest of the band joins in, sounding oddly reminiscent of The Dirty River Boys’ cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs” (although Jacobs’ song was the first to be released). The second verse includes a touch of Western style pedal steel flourishes, leading into an extended slide guitar solo. The song reaches a crescendo with Jacobs repeating the lyrics “I just wanna be saved/ I don’t wanna be let down” over and over, followed by some heavy hitting percussion.
“Time’s Worth A Million,” the lyrical highpoint of the album, shows Jacobs at his most expressive. Last on the album is the diddley bo led Americana gem “Saddle Up and Ride,” a song that will bring everyone within a five mile radius to the dancefloor.
Jacobs is a true musician. His voice hits a spot way down deep in the soul in a way that only a few voices can (Seth James and Kevin Galloway are a couple others). Jacobs has the rare ability to willfully express his artistic soul on both slow Americana songs and fast paced Rock ‘n’ Roll jams. Songs For Cats and Dogs shows that he can play, sing, and write for any and all of the various genres associated with Americana music.