Cris Jacobs

Baltimore, MD | View Website
Whether alone with a guitar and his voice or surrounded by a full band, Cris Jacobs enchants listeners with inspired songwriting, unpretentious guitar virtuosity, soulful transcendence in his vocals, and a buoyant onstage camaraderie that makes every set feel like home. Artists across the board have discovered Jacobs’ musicianship and supple versatility, resulting in an impressive variety of formats in which he has played over the last several years. After a decade, five records, and 200 shows a year as a principal songwriter and frontman for beloved Baltimore-based band The Bridge from 2001-2011, Jacobs wasted no time writing music of his own and exploring different configurations for his craft. In so doing, he has quickly garnered the admiration of a variety of predecessors and peers: rock legend Steve Winwood invited Jacobs to open his national tour in 2014. The following year, Sturgill Simpson extended the same invitation. Never limited by genre, Jacobs and New Orleans heavyweight Ivan Neville recorded a collaborative album “Neville Jacobs,” to be released in 2017. Jacobs also inspired bluegrass stalwart Audie Blaylock to record Jacobs’ “14 Days” on Blaylock’s 2013 album. As an adapting, evolving, versatile musician who has survived on his own merit, Jacobs continues to win over audiences of many tastes, as he brings his characteristic authenticity and soul to every set. Jacobs feels there is a common thread across all genres of music and has harnessed over a decade a devoted trans-genre exploration on his second album, “Dust to Gold,” due for release on October 21, 2016 from American Showplace Records. The album is a well-crafted, soul-stirring expression of his current creative chapter, and reveals the depth of his exploration and the height of his ongoing evolution. In each of the album’s twelve songs, Jacobs has channeled the muse to reach into uncharted musical territory while conveying a deep connectedness to each song’s multi-genre roots. I know that the well I seek is bound to be the deepest of all been ever told I know that to plant a seed is alchemy, we can watch the dust turn into gold So sings the refrain in “Turn into Gold,” the near-eponymous eighth track of the new album. The song is a moving masterpiece about channeling the “muse,” or the “source,” as Jacobs calls it. Fittingly, the lyrics came to Jacobs in one complete vision of words whose sounds slip smoothly over meanings that one must tap into one’s own form of “muse” to “understand.” It’s about the desire to be “enraptured in the mystery, the unknown, the questions, the answers all at once,” Jacobs describes. This is the place in which his songwriting occurs, and from where Jacobs’ performances derive so much electricity. In discussing the song’s inspiration, Jacobs reflects, “being engaged in that ‘unknown’ onstage can have this kind of alchemistic power on those that come in contact with me doing that. If I’m on stage and I’m really connected to the source and I’m really locked in and there’s a room full of people witnessing that, they in turn get locked into their own thing, and it’s this beautiful, ecstatic process that goes both ways. To me, this is the source of a lot of truth.” The song and Jacobs’ description of where it came from convey the absolutely ecstatic experience that is listening to his music, and especially, seeing him play live. An improviser at heart, he brings the spirit of seeking and living in the moment to the stage each time; in every performance, he tries to push the envelope, exploring the depth of each song anew. Both live and on the album, Jacobs’ dynamic guitar playing and singing envelope you completely and instantly, transporting you into the rich, sultry folds of Jacobs’ soulful sound. Other songs on the album bring transcendence in a variety of forms. In “Cold Carolina,” Jacobs croons softly and emotively about a despondent relationship, the feeling of displacement, and the seeking of redemption, of salvation. In “Little Dreamer,” Jacobs, accompanied by wife Kat Jacobs, sings sweetly to their unborn child, whom he discovered was on the way only moments before leaving to start recording the new album. “May your laughter be endless/ and may love take your breath away/ long live the spirit of your wild blue heart/ but always remember where you started, no matter where you are,” he sings to the tiny, nascent being. He wrote the poetic lullaby in twenty short minutes upon arriving at the studio. The opening track, “The Devil or Jesse James,” is a rousing mixture of New Orleans Voodoo rhythm, blues, and rock and roll with ethereal tendrils of psychedelic guitar reaching out across the soundscape. The lyrics evoke the desire to change identities; to run away from one’s past. On this album, the full band includes a richly funky rhythm section from Richmond, Virginia with Hammond Organ, featuring Todd Herrington on bass, Dusty Ray Simmons on drums, and keyboardist John Ginty, who has been a master side man for years, working with Jewel, Citizen Cope, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and most currently, with The Dixie Chicks. In concert, Jacobs continues to sell out local shows to a fan base that knows a richly authentic, and conveyed experience awaits regardless of that night’s configuration. Live performances are dynamic and exciting due to the range and depth of his guitar-playing; in a given moment, Jacobs’ playing is rootsy, gritty, soulful, beautiful, lyrical, and rich. It’s subtle, yet adventurous; lived-in, yet exploratory. His voice is at once sweet and sultry, smooth and textural, throaty and elegant. Through every note, one hears Jacobs’ connection to that elusive source of all that transcends definition. We can only expect further evolution from Cris Jacobs, an artist constantly inspired by the exquisite daily struggle of the human condition, and a person committed to leaning into that struggle with an open heart. “My favorite part of being an artist is the journey itself,” Jacobs describes, “the vulnerability, the unknown, the riskiness, the constantly trying to reinvent yourself, the improvisation, the capturing of magical moments. It’s an approach I take in my live show, too.”

2 Songs

The Ballerina

by Cris Jacobs
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