Blues prodigy re-teams with Rainshadow for streaming show May 14

Posted 5/11/20

The doors of Rainshadow Recording in Fort Worden are still closed, but that’s not stopping Rainshadow owner and engineer Everett Moran from kicking off Rainshadow’s virtual concert series …

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Blues prodigy re-teams with Rainshadow for streaming show May 14

Posted

The doors of Rainshadow Recording in Fort Worden are still closed, but that’s not stopping its owner and engineer, Everett Moran, from kicking off a virtual concert series with a longtime supporter of both the studio and the local music scene.

Singer-songwriter and guitarist David Jacobs-Strain lives in Eugene, Oregon, but he’s a veteran of Centrum’s Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, first as a student, then as a faculty member at the age of 15.

“He must have been the youngest faculty member,” Moran said. “He’s that good.”

Moran and Jacobs-Strain go back to when Moran served as the concert director of the Swallow Hill Music Association in 2001.

“I was charged with booking their fifth-annual Coors Roots of the Blues Festival, so I was looking for a young up-and-comer to open the festival, someone with enough chops and soul to play on the same stage with John Jackson, Corey Harris and Del Rey,” Moran said. “My friend and colleague Mary Flower suggested a 16-year-old kid from Eugene, Oregon.”

Moran soon found Jacobs-Strain not only “had the chops to hang,” but was “an old soul” to boot.

“Sixteen years hence, that prodigious young bluesman has not only doubled in age, but has at least doubled in musical breadth,” Moran said. “David has evolved from a student of the blues into one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation, and yes, he still has the chops to hang with the best.”

Jacobs-Strain’s recollections of Port Townsend date back even earlier, since he was only 11 years old the first time he visited the town.

“I caught a ride to Centrum’s blues workshop from Walker T Ryan, in the ancient red Volkswagen he called the ‘Blues Tomato,’” Jacobs-Strain said. “That night, I walked into a room of 20 folks jamming on a pre-war Charlie Patton tune.”

Jacobs-Strain already loved acoustic blues, but the experiences of that evening changed his life.

“Music became a way of making friends and connecting across generations,” he said. “Blues week gave me access to the deep well of American music. I sat at the feet of Honey Boy Edwards and John Jackson and learned from modern masters like Orville Johnson and Del Rey. When I started writing songs, they didn’t always come out as blues, but when I sing a story song like ‘Further From the Road’ or ‘Big League Dreams,’ I still draw inspiration from Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt.”

Moran noted that Jacobs-Strain David played on street corners and at farmers markets as a teenager, and bought his first steel guitar with the quarters he saved up.

“Before he dropped out of Stanford to play full time, he’d already appeared at festivals across the country,” Moran said. “He was often billed as a blues prodigy, but he had to fight to avoid being a novelty act.”

For his part, Jacobs-Strain wanted to tell new stories.

“It just wasn’t enough to relive the feelings in other people’s music,” Jacobs-Strain said.

Moran lauded Jacobs-Strain for “his virtuosity and spirit of emotional abandon,” and described his live shows as ranging from “humorous, subversive blues, to delicate balladry, then back to swampy rock-and-roll,” in a fashion Moran deemed similar to troubadours such as Robert Johnson and Jackson Browne.

“I try to make art that you can dance to, but I love that darker place where, in my mind, Skip James, Nick Drake and maybe Elliot Smith blur together,” Jacobs-Strain said.

Jacobs-Strain has appeared at festivals from British Columbia to Australia, including Merlefest, the Telluride Blues Festival, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Hardly Strictly, Bumbershoot and Blues to Bop in Switzerland.

He’s taught at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch, and on the road, he’s shared the stage with Boz Scaggs for more than 60 shows, Lucinda Williams, Etta James, The Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, Robert Earle Keen, Todd Snider, Taj Mahal, Janis Ian, Tommy Emmanuel, Bob Weir, T-Bone Burnett and Del McCoury.

Jacobs-Strain’s latest record, due to release later this year, was tracked at Sound City and mixed by Jim Scott, who’s worked with Tom Petty and Lucinda Williams.

On that album, Jacobs-Strain is joined by an A-list of musicians, including Jim Keltner, Viktor Krauss, Greg Liesz and Larry Goldings.

And yet, like so many touring musicians, Jacobs-Strain has been mostly out of work since the pandemic began.

“I’ve canceled more than 50 shows so far,” he said. “I was supposed to be in Switzerland right now.”

Jacobs-Strain refuses to let the bug beat him, though, so now, he’s playing a series of streaming shows, “setting the microphones up just like Everett taught me to do in the studio,” only this time, the studio is his home in Eugene.

“It’s my goal to make each livestream feel like a real concert,” Jacobs-Strain said.

His show on Thursday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. will be broadcast for free from the Rainshadow Recording Facebook Page at facebook.com/rainshadowrecording/live, with “virtual doors” opening at 7:15 p.m.

“Folks are encouraged to make a donation, but it’s not required,” Jacob-Strain said.

You don’t have to have a Facebook profile to attend; simply click the link a few minutes before 7:30 p.m.

Even if he’s only returning virtually, Jacobs-Strain continues to be drawn to Port Townsend’s “deep and ever-evolving” art scene.

“It’s always inspiring to walk in the shadow of the Olympics, but it’s the community of artists and art lovers that keeps me coming back,” he said. “Everett Moran was one of the first promoters to hire me outside of Oregon, more than half of my life ago. We’ve become friends and collaborated on recording projects. I had the pleasure of co-producing the Last Hot Club Sandwich album with Everett and David Grisman. Everett has created a recording studio that doubles as a great-sounding, intimate venue.”

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