PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Depth and range of passion

Handmade and passionate.

That’s the kind of music David Jacobs-Strain is into — and it’s the sound that drew the acclaimed singer-guitarist to the Port Angeles band that’ll open his pair of Peninsula shows.

For years Jacobs-Strain has roamed the country, leaving listeners marveling at the blues that come from his young hands. And just this May at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts in Port Angeles, he met Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys, a young, bluegrassy outfit fronted by Abby Mae Latson.

It was mutual love at first listen, Jacobs-Strain and the boys agree.

“I was knocked out first by Abby’s voice,” Jacobs-Strain said. “She was singing a country version of a Led Zeppelin tune.”

That would be “Black Dog,” said David Rivers, the Homeschool Boys’ banjo and guitar player. And yes, he added, Abby’s voice “is drop-dead perfect.”

His band — which includes vocalist Latson and fiddle player Joey Gish — has been together just a year, but it’s been an eventful one. Rivers and Latson, both from Port Angeles, and Gish, who’s from Sequim, hit it off with Jacobs-Strain after opening for him at Juan de Fuca, and were invited to share the bill with him at two tour stops this week.

First comes their concert tonight at The Upstage, 923 Washington St. just off Water Street in Port Townsend; the cover charge is $10 for the 8 p.m. show.

Then Abby Mae, the boys — who were in fact home schooled — and Jacobs-Strain will reunite at Bar N9ne, 229 W. First St. in downtown Port Angeles at 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission to that 21-and-over show is $5.

From this match made in Port Angeles, music lovers can expect a mixture of old and new, understatement and ferocity.

“Just the two of us, just a fiddle and guitar, leaves a lot of room for Abby’s voice,” said Rivers. “She’s perfect for bluegrass; her voice is not over the top. She just addresses the song . . . and she carries herself with an innocent presence.”

Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys like the stripped-down Appalachian sound — and they like to stir it into something unexpected, such as their bluegrass version of the Beatles’ “Come Together.”

Concert-goers may recognize the band members from various local businesses: Rivers tends bar at Port Angeles’ Wine on the Waterfront and mans Mystery Bay Seafood’s booth at the Port Angeles Farmers Market, Gish works at Nash’s Organic Produce and Latson works at the YMCA in Port Angeles.

And lately, Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys have been hard at recording their debut album in Rivers’ studio apartment, on his MacBook Pro laptop computer.

“It’s currently sounding raw [and] exuberant,” Rivers said. The plan is for an October release.

“They love traditional music, but they also have fun with it,” Jacobs-Strain said of the band, adding that he plans on inviting Abby Mae and the boys to sit in with him on at least one song.

Jacobs-Strain, who just turned 27 on Aug. 13, is known as a slide guitarist who adds his own spice to classics like Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” while dishing up originals such as “Ocean or a Teardrop,” “Black Glass Butterfly” and “Terraplane Angel,” the title track on his fourth and latest record.

About three years after he picked up the guitar, Jacobs-Strain came to Port Townsend for Centrum’s Acoustic Blues Festival. He was just 12 years old then, and one of two participants younger than 18.

He grew up shaping his own interpretations of Delta blues, and became a nightclub-to-music-festival nomad. And these days, Jacobs-Strain doesn’t have an address, having just toured with Boz Scaggs and finished his new album amid a flood in Nashville.

That sounds like a blues song: After a downpour, he returned to the studio in Music City to find his Gibson guitar floating in a pool. Somehow, the master recording of the album was one of a few things not drenched.

So Jacobs-Strain dried off the guitar, and it was fine; he’s now selling “Terraplane Angel” CDs online and at his concerts.

And like other blues musicians, he aims to show people his genre in all its shades.

“People look at music that comes out of the blues and decide it’s all about suffering and heartbreak. To me that’s so not the truth,” Jacobs-Strain said. “To me, it’s turning something painful into something joyful and expressive.”

Robert Johnson’s songs, for example, are more than his guitar playing.

“What his genius was,” he added, “was he knew how to put together the two-and-a-half minute pop song that tells a story … sure, there’s dark, soul-wrenching stuff. But the songs are also sometimes really playful,” such as when there’s a man-woman relationship involved.

“What I want to express is that range of feeling.”

On stage, “you’re always trying to open the door for something magic to happen. I really mean the word magic,” Jacobs-Strain said.

“When the music is coming from that amazing place, that sort of subconscious place, what’s better than that? When everybody’s feeling it, it’s like nothing else.”

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