David Jacobs-Strain has proven to be a breath of fresh air on both the folk festival and blues festival circuits, as his guitar playing style fuses elements of both traditional and contemporary folk and blues. Born in Connecticut but moving to Eugene, Oregon with his family, Jacobs-Strain graduated from South Eugene High School in 2001 and attended college in Northern California.
He began accompanying himself on guitar while singing as a nine-year-old, with plenty of encouragement from his guitar teacher, Eugene-area folksinger Emily Fox. Among the first tunes he learned was Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues," and he became more fascinated with blues than he was with traditional folk music. His parents took him to see live shows by Taj Mahal and Walker T. Ryan at the local theater, and he also expanded his knowledge of the blues by listening to old acoustic blues masters like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Johnson, and Skip James. Another regional influence was Northern California-based guitarist Bob Brozman, who played in Eugene's theater and inspired Jacobs-Strain to learn to play slide guitar. A year later, Jacobs-Strain opened for Brozman at the same theater. By the time he was 12, he had been performing publicly for two years, and by the time he was a junior in high school, he'd played at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco.
Also at 12, he attended his first Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop, and he was accomplished enough that by 1999 and 2000, he was the workshop's youngest-ever faculty member, teaching alongside people he'd long idolized: John Cephas, Del Rey, John Jackson, Steve James, and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Jacobs-Strain also studied at the IGS Acoustic Guitar Workshop with Brozman, Martin Simpson, John Renbourn, and Woody Mann. These workshops allowed him to further explore his interests beyond blues to include the roots music of India, Africa, the Middle East, and the folk music of Appalachia and the British Isles. In 2001 he was appointed a faculty member at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia, and has performed at Merlefest in North Carolina, the prestigious Philadelphia Folk Festival, and New York's Winterhawk..
If you like acoustic blues in the tradition of Americans like Brozman, Dave Van Ronk, or Stefan Grossman, you'll appreciate Jacobs-Strain's eclectic approach. His recordings include an indie release, First Friday Live in 1998; Eugene Blues: An Anthology in 1999; Skin and Bones in 1999 for Burnside Records; Stuck on the Way Back in 2002 and Ocean or a Tear Drop in 2004 for Northern Blues Music; and Liar's Day, a 2008 independently released recording. Jacobs-Strain continues to tour and record, turning new generations on to the complex yet simple beauty of the blues. ~ Richard Skelly