Credibility -- or I should say the lack thereof? -- is a killer in the music scene, and at first glance, David Jacobs-Strain ought to be a dead man. He's a nineteen year old white kid from Connecticut who's preparing to enter Stanford, but he plays the music of 80 year old black men who've paid their dues on streetcorners throughout the Mississippi delta. Yes, indeed, David Jacobs-Strain is a blues singer, and although by all outward signs he has no business being one, he assumes the role of a weary black man for 50 minutes, and manages to sound legitimate doing so. Stuck On The Way Back
is Jacobs-Strain's fourth album, and his maturity and aptitude as a guitarist and vocalist goes far beyond his age.
Of the twelve songs on this disc, three are traditional blues pieces, two are reworkings of more recent blues songs, and the other seven are original compositions. Jacobs-Strain handles the traditional songs quite well, telling the stories and laying down the riffs as if they were his own. His voice is like a small backyard fishing pond -- it doesn't cover a vast range, but it's smooth, full, and deep where it does extend. The vocals are far more crisp than typical blues vocals, adding a unique spin to the older songs, and giving the original songs a distinctive. The guitar work is all acoustic, which proves to be a wise move, allowing for every expertly-strummed note to ring loud and clear and adding to the disc's overall rawness. With the possible exception of a couple of unnecessarily drawn-out songs ("Dark Horse Blues" and "Poor Boy"), every track here is a surefire winner. Among the originals, "Black And Blue" is the most impressive, its furious pace and tasty piano chops delivering raucous satisfaction. Jacobs-Strain appears most comfortable when he's strumming his guitar at full speed, shredding away at intricate riffs and digging into the deepest corners of his soul. Perhaps his penchant for faster songs is an indicator of his age, but it's the only obvious concession to youth that you'll find on this masterfully-played album. Even the most ardent blues hater should be able to dredge up some grudging respect for Jacobs-Strain's accomplishments here.