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with Ryan Montbleau
Friday, April 7, 2017
Baltimore Soundstage - Baltimore, MD
Age Restrictions: All Ages
Whether alone with just the guitar and his voice or surrounded by a full band, Cris Jacobs enchants listeners with his inspired, poignant songwriting, virtuous guitar playing, and soulfully transcendent voice. Artists across the board have discovered Jacobs’ musicianship and supple versatility, resulting in an impressive variety of formats in which he has played over the last few years.
After a decade, five records, and 200 shows a year as principal songwriter and frontman for beloved Baltimore-based band The Bridge from 2001-2011, Jacobs wasted no time continuing to write music of his own and exploring different configurations for his craft. He released his debut solo album, Songs for Cats and Dogs, in 2012, and continued to perform relentlessly, both with his new band and as a solo artist. In doing so, he quickly garnered the admiration of a variety of predecessors and peers: rock legend Steve Winwood saw Jacobs perform in 2014 and soon invited him to open his national tour. The following year, Sturgill Simpson extended the same invitation. Never limited by genre, Jacobs and New Orleans heavyweight Ivan Neville recorded a collaborative album under the name “Neville Jacobs”, which will be released in 2017. As an adapting, evolving, versatile musician who has survived on his own merit, Jacobs continues to win over audiences of many tastes, as he brings his characteristic authenticity and soul to every set.
Jacobs feels there are common threads across many genres of music, and he has harnessed over a decade of trans-genre exploration on his second solo album, Dust to Gold, due for release on October 21, 2016, from American Showplace Music. The album is a soul-stirring expression of the current chapter of his creative evolution, featuring twelve well-crafted songs that masterfully weave through the sweet and rugged landscape of soul, country, folk, blues, gospel, and rock and roll. Through every turn, one can easily feel Jacobs’ reverence to his influences, but the result is an original, eclectic record with a sound that is authentically his. In a given moment, Jacobs’ guitar playing is gritty, soulful, rich, and lyrical. It’s subtle, yet adventurous. His voice is at once sweet and sultry, with a honeyed whiskey croon that delivers his thoughtful, expressive lyrics.
Songwriter and performer Ryan Montbleau entered a new chapter of his career with the release of Growing Light in 2015. The 10-song set is bold and barrier breaking, organically blending rock, funk, soul, folk and psychedelia to create a sonic kaleidoscope where tunes like the percolating first single “Pacing Like Prince” and the cinematic title track co-exist in refracted bliss.
Growing Light is a “perfect storm” recording. The album pairs Montbleau’s most artfully crafted and sincere lyrics with vocal performances of exceptional grace and heart. The songs also benefit from the near-telepathic rapport of Montbleau and his band, which developed over a decade of touring. And those qualities are enhanced by the adventurous production of Galactic’s Ben Ellman and inventive mixing by Mikael “Count” Eldridge, who has worked with DJ Shadow, Radiohead and No Doubt. Growing Light is also poignant and personal. Montbleau’s new songs trace the bloom-and-fade cycle of finding and losing love through the arc of a relationship. They also come at the end of a decade-long era with his band – a group who came of age together while touring the jam band circuit, where the Massachusetts-born Montbleau built his initial following.
Montbleau began as a solo performer, appearing often on stage at the first House of Blues club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and made his early recordings primarily with just his guitar. By 2006 he’d formed the Ryan Montbleau Band and was branching out of the coffeehouse and folk scene into the jam world, spending much of each year on the road.
Today Montbleau continues to maintain a busy touring schedule, dividing gigs between solo shows and concerts with various line-ups of the Ryan Montbleau Band. “I loved playing with my original band and still do, whenever we may get the chance. But touring with different musicians has taught me to be a better bandleader and forced me to be a better musician,” Montbleau reflects. “Another thing I’ve learned is that as you continue your life as a songwriter and performer, you learn your limitations and grow into them,” he continues. “You learn how to push yourself to write lyrics that get as close to what you want to say as possible, or to find the right music to say it with, or to sing in a way that really carries the message in your heart. That’s where I feel like I’ve arrived today, and I’m excited to find out where I’m going next.”