April 26, 2024 The Recher Doors 7:00 pm

Cris Jacobs

Lindsay Lou

Apr 26 (Fri)

Doors 7:00 pm All Ages

Tickets

Venue Information

512 York Rd
Towson, MD 21204

Cris Jacobs

Official Band Site

Cris Jacobs lost his way. Most of us do.

Part of the story is in those lost days. But more of the story is in what we find again.

“As kids, we always had that feeling of, things are going to work out, the way I dream they’ll work out,” Jacobs says. “But then, the goal posts keep moving. And you wake up one day, and you’re 45 and still reaching.” Jacobs has gone for a walk in the hills outside Baltimore, which is still home. He takes a deep breath. “I think that’s human nature, and that’s what I’ve come to accept and embrace.”

For Jacobs, the last several years have been hard––and transformative. With a vote of confidence from a legend, a no. 2 pencil and scratchpad, and his acoustic guitar, he went into his barn to write. He emerged with his finest album to date.

Produced by Jerry Douglas, One of These Days is a stunning collection of storytelling and song, rooted in bluegrass, folk, and blues, but unencumbered by rules and expectations. The Infamous Stringdusters serve as the album’s rollicking house band, joined by friends including Billy Strings, Sam Bush, Lee Ann Womack, the McCrary Sisters, Lindsay Lou, and more. The result is unfettered, joyful virtuosity, swirling around Jacobs’ powerful voice, gut-check meditations, and close-up character sketches. “I’ve always found so much comfort in roots music––in string band music,” Jacobs says. “There’s just something about the sound of all those instruments together that resonates with me to my core and brings me grounding and peace.”

Jacobs needed some peace. As he confronted depression, he’d spent years trying to ignore, he faced artistic and personal doubts. He wanted to be a better husband and more present dad. He also wanted to figure out why he was still making music. “I was on the verge of giving it all up,” Jacobs says. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with music anymore, because it felt like I’d been scratching and clawing for years––just never quite getting there, even though, when I zoom out and look at the life and career I’ve had, well, 20 years ago I would have been ecstatic if you’d told me these things would happen.”

An acclaimed singer-songwriter with a long track record of smart, soulful rock-and-roll, Jacobs is beloved by fans and respected by peers, such as Sturgill Simpson and Steve Winwood, for whom he opened tours. A celebrated collaboration with Ivan Neville turned heads in 2017, while NPR, Rolling Stone, Paste, and others have encouraged music lovers to pay attention for years. But Jacobs still felt like he was hungry for something just out of reach.

“Amongst everything, I was having a musical identity crisis as well,” Jacobs said. “I thought, ‘You know, I’m just going to go back to the things that make me really inspired and happy. The simple things.’” He reached out to Jerry Douglas, whom he’d met while playing a festival, to ask if Douglas would be interested in producing his record. Douglas didn’t hesitate: Absolutely. Then, Jacobs asked the Infamous Stringdusters, longtime friends, to be his album’s band––and got the same enthusiastic response. 

Around the same time, Jacobs sought professional medical help. He got medication and discovered transcendental meditation. He got back to the basics of practicing guitar. And then, in about four months, with Douglas and the Infamous Stringdusters waiting, he wrote the 11 songs that make up One of These Days.

“Reminding myself to get out of my own way and keep it simple and soulful was the mantra that propelled the whole thing,” Jacobs says. “And having a guy like Jerry, a hero of mine who’s so connected to American roots music but has always been an innovator, patting me on the back and saying everything sounded good and that he liked my songs was one of the biggest boosts of encouragement I could have gotten.” 

It’s listeners who are the luckiest ones: It turns out that for Jacobs, finding purpose and peace sounds like a jubilant front-porch jam. Album opener “Heavy Water” runs through a thunderstorm with a chorus of strings and Jacobs’ unmistakable vocals. Beautiful “Wild Roses and Dirt” unfolds in starkly visual vignettes like a dream. It holds a special place for Jacobs. “It was the first song that I completed for this record, and it came out in a very flowing way,” he says. “It’s also the one we started the sessions with. It just set the vibe for the magic that was to come.” 

All of the tracks were recorded live––something Jacobs wasn’t expecting. When everyone got together, it was just too good––too spirited––not to.

The title track taps into that relatable restlessness that Jacobs battled and has accepted. It’s one of two tracks featuring Sam Bush and his mandolin. The second, “Queen of the Avenue,” is a feat of storytelling and musicianship with breathtaking backing vocals from the McCrary Sisters. Like many of the album’s tracks, the song creates a fictional character based on historical facts––this time in Jacobs’ old Baltimore neighborhood.

Baltimore itself is a gritty character on the album. “Poor Davey” is another deliciously haunting story song, featuring Billy Strings on guitar and vocals. Jacobs wrote the track in real time while following a harrowing news story that was unfolding in Baltimore. Rolling “Pimlico” weaves a tale set at the city’s iconic racetrack.

Featuring Lindsay Lou, vocal showcase “Work Song” explores the transcendent power of singing. “I was digging into the inspiration of what I wanted this record to be, reading a lot of stories about this area where I grew up,” Jacobs says. “I read about crab pickers down on the eastern shore. All they did all day long was pick crabs––tedious, boring work. The conditions were awful. But one of them said, ‘No matter what, I could still sing, and that was all I needed to get through to the next moment.’”

Mournful “Cold, Cold Walls” mulls over consequences with crying strings that sometimes roar to a shout, while “Lifetime to Go”––with Lee Ann Womack––asks a partner to find comfort in the time that’s left. 

Featuring just Jacobs on cigar box guitar and vocals and Jerry Douglas on lap steel, “Daughter, Daughter” is a standout. As Jacobs worries about what awaits his little girls on any given school day, he reminds them, himself, and the rest of us not to forget to live. “That song came pretty easily once I started opening it up,” he says. “Writing it felt like a prayer. I don’t even know who I was talking to. Well, talking to them, but talking to the higher power at the same time. That one means a lot to me.” 

Album closer “Everybody’s Lost” is a poignant last word, acknowledging sadness and striving alongside hope and shared experience. “I’m always trying to get better, and it never seems like things are where they’re supposed to be,” Jacobs says. “The realization that it’s normal to feel like you’re not where you want to be––that everybody else has this same sort of feeling they can’t explain––maybe it makes it easier. For all of us.”

Lindsay Lou

Official Band Site

“Guided by life experiences, Lindsay Lou’s sound and songwriting continues to evolve and intertwine her sturdy Bluegrass roots with progressive Americana and Folk.” – PBS

“I saw a literal manifestation of the sacred feminine, and had this profound sense that I was meant to embody it,” recalls celebrated singer-songwriter Lindsay Lou after journeying through a hallucinogenic ritual that would inform the way she processed waves of grief in the sea of change ahead of her. The loss of her grandmother, the end of her marriage, and the overwhelming turmoil of COVID lockdowns found the Nashville-based artist on a spiritual journey of self-knowledge and healing with this gift from the mystic swirl. On her new album Queen of Time (due September 29th from Kill Rock Stars), Lou explores that quest across ten tracks of tender, heartbreakingly beautiful music.

With this new vision of womanhood in mind, Lou began to see a throughline from her grandmother, to herself, to the art she was creating. Her 2018 release, Southland (recorded with her former band, The Flatbellys), felt like the first chapter to a greater story that was unfolding; with this release, the theme deepened. “It started with my grandma. She was the unattainable woman in a way,” Lou explains. “She had 12 kids and ran homeless shelters and was always taking people in. She felt that her calling was to be a mother to everyone – this communal caregiver – but it also meant that in belonging to everyone, she also belonged to no one. I realized that this is the catch-22 of anyone who is a woman unto herself. Women, first and foremost, belong to themselves, so nobody can really have them; but, there’s also this element of self-sacrificing and giving to the idea of the feminine.”

Lou’s vocals are a powerful companion to her songwriting. “In an era when style and trends can become genericana, [Lou] focuses on the song,” said No Depression. “It is infectious and joyful, soulful even.” The undeniable centerpiece throughout Queen of Time, Lou’s voice is a molasses-sweet instrument equally capable of clarion ache, slicing deep into the soul. The daughter of a literal coal-miner and millwright, and the granddaughter of a teacher gone Rainbow Gathering healer, Lou honed her honest and resonant style with her bluegrass-inspired band, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, and Michigan supergroup, Sweet Water Warblers (Rachael Davis, May Erlewine), excavating elements of bluegrass, folk, Americana, and soulful pop for their emotional depths. The Warblers’ debut album, The Dream That Holds This Child (2020), was dubbed “a testament to the trio’s range” by Billboard, running the gamut of blues, gospel, soul, and Appalachian folk.

On this latest record, Lou has refined those gemstones to a brilliant luster, holding the listener’s hand on the path filled with heartbreak, discovery, and resilience. On “Nothing Else Matters” (co-written by Nashville musicians Maya de Vitry and Phoebe Hunt), Lou blends those emotions into one vibrant present. The track features GRAMMY® Award winner Jerry Douglas, his immediately recognizable dobro work helping Lou tap into her bluegrass roots while she unravels this new vision of the world. “There is something incredibly iconic to Jerry’s playing; it’s unmistakable,” says Lou. “Like every touch of his bar to the string speaks exactly to the heart of the song. I feel really honored to have his musical voice among the players.”

Lou explores the continued theme of duality on lead single and album namesake “Queen of Time”, her limber, golden vocals backed by a suite of acoustic guitar, psychedelic synth and an energetic rhythm section. The song’s lyrics play out like zen koans. “I’ve spent years at this point, listening and reflecting on this record. ‘Queen of Time’ seems to embody the entire work’s theme of self-discovery in a way that almost feels like a wake up slap in the face; like if it was a snake, it would have bit me,” says Lou. “And I think that’s kinda the nature of self-discovery. It’s discovering something you knew all along.”

On the radiant “On Your Side (Starman)”, Lou sings to a loved one through rose-colored glasses, as if they were her hero. “You can be the starman/ The lightning in the sky/ I will be a shelter/ ‘Cause I am on your side,” she sings, a lithe mandolin bolstering her serene offer of support. Bathed in harmonies and supported by a honeyed troupe of pedal steel, guitars, and a splashy percussion section, Lou sounds like a heroine herself, a gleaming bastion of strength and love. 

Elsewhere, “Nothing’s Working” finds Lou dueting with GRAMMY®-winning guitar virtuoso Billy Strings on their co-write. (You can hear String’s version of it, accompanying Lou, on his 2020 release Renewal). “This was another track that came together over the course of a few years; it lived as the first verse alone for a long time,” recalls Lou. “A suicide in our community stirred me to finish the lyrics, and pandemic gave Billy and I some extra time at home to flush it out.”

The message comes through in the lyrics as Lou sings, “Take time to listen to the quiet ones/ Watch how the rain gives up a chance to swim/ Burn the broken bridges and build them up again,” the duo crying out for change in the face of the endless pain and violence in personal lives and spread across the media. String’s flat-picked guitar ripples and writhes, a deep purple smoke pervading the track. 

“I’ve been fortunate to have spent formative years surrounded by immensely talented friends and collaborators, who, like Billy, feel more like family at this point.” explains Lou. “Having them lend their voices to this record is very special to me.”

Lou’s devotion to understanding where she came from plays a central role not only in the ethos of Queen of Time, but in its sound. “I have 27 hours of conversations that I recorded with my grandma, her telling me her story and explaining how she developed her unorthodox, somewhat radical, somewhat fringe philosophy,” Lou says with a wistful smile. Snippets of those recordings are infused into the album, as in the delightfully Calypso-flecked “Love Calls”. And as the album nears its end, another call to grandma helps exorcize the pain of death. “Nothing can stay bad forever,” Grandma Nancy reminds us, and you can feel the tears being wiped aside and replaced by something new—hope and resilience.

Named among NPR’s “12 Best Live Performances” in 2015, Lou has long been beloved as a live performer, from Telluride Bluegrass Festival to Stagecoach, Celtic Connections to Australia’s National Folk Festival, and a “Can’t Miss Act” at AmericanaFest—not to mention acclaim from PBS, No Depression, Billboard, Holler, Paste, and The Bluegrass Situation, among other outlets. But on Queen of Time, Lou captures a new arc of haloed beauty, becoming unattainable in her own way—a vibrant, powerful woman who can share herself with the world, and yet define a mystic sense of inner self as well.