With just a couple of weeks left in the year, listening to Dust to Gold, Cris Jacobs’s second solo album has been a breath of fresh air. With sharp, economical chops on the slide and lead guitar, and backed by a nasty band, Jacobs delivers an album full of blues-based and soulful rock n’ roll. Jacobs’s has one of those pure blues voices: rough around the edges, but powerful and deep.
On “Kind Woman,” Jacobs lets his slide guitar set the tone and delivers the lyrics casually: “I got nowhere to be / Ain’t nobody else I’m looking for, ain’t nobody lookin’ for me. / Been a long time loner on the boulevard, don’t ya know / I say we keep the lock on the bungalow.” It’s just a great, easy tune that slips and slides around, with Jacobs in the highest parts of his vocal register and rock solid drums from Dusty Ray Simmons.
Jacobs has an ability to shift across genres, with “Hallelujah Hustler,” borrowing equal parts from gospel and big band jazz, then following with, “Jack The Whistle and The Hammer,” opening with a catchy riff reminiscent of “Call Me The Breeze.” “Cold Carolina” is a standout on this album, a somber ballad that really lets Jacobs’s voice shine. He reminds me at times of Marc Cohn for his range and emotional quality. I also love the way he approaches the rhyme scheme in this songs, running the lines into each other, reinforcing its loneliness and heartache.
The centerpiece of the album is “Turn To Gold,” with its driving rhythm, searing guitar, and anthemic repetition of the chorus. Cris and his wife Kat sing “Little Dreamer,” a song written to their daughter, born just a few weeks before the album release, full of hopes and encouragement for her. It’s a gorgeous song, in lyric and melody and their voices complement each other beautifully. “Break Your Fall” is a soulful and pop-influenced song guided by John Ginty’s subtly played Hammond organ–it feels like something Otis Redding could have written.
Jacobs is from Baltimore, the Charm City that gives the title of the last song. I’m hoping he gets up to Boston in 2017, because I think he’d be pretty stunning live. Check him out!