CARBONDALE — When slide guitarist David Jacobs-Strain was 8, his mother bought his first guitar at a garage sale for $10.
Life was never the same.
“After a year of making awful noise, I heard Taj Mahal play at the Woodsmen of the World hall in Eugene, Oregon, my home town,” said Jacobs-Strain, from his home in the Pacific Northwest. “I didn’t know what to call the style he played, but I wanted to make that big sound, and to someday carry a stage as a solo performer.”
Jacobs-Strain dedicated his teen years to that dream. He performed on street corners and soon found himself invited to play the Newport Folk Fest — where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez launched their own careers — by his early 20s.
Touring with legendary singer-songwriter Boz Scaggs followed.
“I dropped out of Stanford to do music full time, and got hired on as an opener for a 65-date tour with Boz Scaggs. Boz is a class act, and has an amazing knowledge of American music, from jazz standards to rock and roll and Memphis soul,” Jacobs-Strain said. “With Boz, I played some amazing venues — I’ll never forget the standing ovation at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It was just me and my guitar up there.”
And it all started with a $10 garage sale guitar.
Jacobs-Strain can expect the audience to already be on its feet Saturday as he returns to Colorado as part of his current road tour. He headlines Saturday’s KDNK Blues and BBQ concert at 7 p.m. at Fourth Street Plaza. The KDNK Membership Drive event from 4-10 p.m. opens with Rocky Mountain reggae, rock and blues jam band Leadville Cherokee, and is free for KDNK members, and $5 for nonmembers.
“I have played in Colorado a few times, at Telluride Blues and Brews and with Boz Scaggs at the Belly up, and the Paramount Theater,” Jacobs-Strain said. “I’ve even played right in Carbondale at Steve’s Guitars — it’s a great, intimate listening room with a funky vibe and great sound.”
Now 30, Jacobs-Strain said he is looking forward to sharing his experiences of being a young singer-songwriter and touring musician with the Blues and BBQ crowd.
“I love telling stories on stage as well as jamming out on the slide guitar. I love a room and an audience that will follow me on that journey,” he said. “I play a one-man rock ’n’ roll style inspired by early blues players like Robert Johnson, and by troubadours from Woody Guthrie to Jackson Browne.”
Jacobs-Strain’s modern guitar heroes include Gillian Welch, Todd Snider and Steve Earle, as well as David Lindley and Derek Trucks. Since learning to play the slide guitar, Jacobs-Strain has adapted his sound to better suit his own musical personality.
“I want the music to move from swampy slide guitar grooves to funny off-beat blues, and even in to story-ballad territory,” he said.
He has dedicated 2014 to touring, experimenting with his guitar, and working in the studio with Traveling Wilburys’ drummer Jim Keltner.
“This year I’ve been touring solo, and with my band, the Crunk Mountain Boys, and as a duo with harmonica player Bob Beach,” Jacobs-Strain said. “I’ve also been working on a record at Sound City Studios, the studio that Dave Grohl made a movie about. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve done to alt-country.”
Jacobs-Strain said a lifelong love for music has helped him cope with recent heartbreak in his personal life that nearly stopped his career in its tracks.
“One year ago, I lost my girlfriend to an undiagnosed autoimmune disease. It’s been the hardest year of my life, and yet I’m so grateful to have music,” he said. “A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined I’d still be performing, let alone recording with Keltner.”
Playing live on the road, especially Saturday in Carbondale, is all part of the healing.
“In a way, losing Corissa has only made me more dedicated to playing hand-made music,” Jacobs-Strain said. “I’m looking forward to playing Carbondale; to meeting new folks, seeing friends, sharing stories, and celebrating music and community. Let’s make some noise!”