I first saw Jacob perform at the North East Folk Alliance in New York last November. What impressed me most then was his guitar work: his fingers fade into a blur as he races across the fretboard, laying out a full sound all on his own, and hitting every note dead on.
Last night I saw another side of Jake that I hadn’t seen at NERFA. His very innovative in his approach to the guitar. Lot’s of right-hand work on the fretboard, harmonics, and flexing the neck for special effects. He used a looping box to lay down grooves, and then played amazing lead over them. That’s not so unique these days, but I don’t remember seeing anyone singing scat through his guitar’s sound hole, into the pickup microphone, to make that part of the loop. Pretty cool.
Jacob and I had a chance to talk at the Port City Music Hall lounge before he mounted the unique stage up behind the bar. The conversation ranged wildly between Willie Nelson‘s hat, Harry Anderson‘s talent, and David Copperfield’s magic. They were all influences on his performance style and approach to his art.
He hails from South Carolina, but in the last few years has traveled extensively as he has taken up the life of a touring musician. He seems to be having a pretty good time!
Johnson’s songs are about forgetting old girlfriends, growing up, and Jack Karouac. He has a unique lyrical style that crams lots of words in between the frantic lead work on the fretboard; it works very well. On stage, as he surrenders to the passion that drives his guitar playing, his energy and motion was that of a rocker from the old Muppet TV show. Very entertaining and inspiring.
Jacob comes back to Maine regularly – he has played The Dogfish Bar and Grille and The North Star Music Cafe in the past. Keep an eye out for this guy, he is not to be missed!
Incidentally, I enjoyed my first visit to the Port City Music Hall. I didn’t get a good look at the big room in the venue, but it’s a very classy place, with great service. I need to get back in there for a show. I’m sure I’m the last one in town to have that experience!