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.”

More in Life

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.


(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading

Jaiden Dokken, at Jeanette Best Gallery in Port Townsend, is Northwind Art’s new exhibits coordinator. (Northwind Art)
Poet laureate takes on new role with Northwind Art

Artist, poet and educator Jaiden Dokken is Northwind Art’s… Continue reading

Author John Vaillant stands in front of the iconic tower at Port Angeles City Pier. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Author visits Peninsula for Writer in Residence program

Vaillant awarded Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

A GROWING CONCERN: Volunteers a dream for playground

YOU, MY LOYAL readers, have been excellent the couple of times I… Continue reading

Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

Joanna Gabriel will present the lesson at 11 a.m.… Continue reading