It takes a rare gift to install yourself in
the competitive environs of New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street
and consistently draw capacity audiences night after night, even
when other clubs are standing empty. And it’s a rarer gift even
than that to have achieved this reputation with only a
stripped-down quartet that plays nothing but straight electric
blues. In New Orleans. On Bourbon Street.
What’s Charles Jacobs’
First of all, he’s got
a light-as-air touch on both guitar and vocals – no
heavy-handed, over-the-top effects for him. Instead, everything
he does, he does with subtle style. Second, he grew up in
Mississippi and absorbed all the hardcore blues influences he
could lay his ears on, from Lightnin’ Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf
to B.B. King and T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles and Brook Benton to
Johnny Taylor and James Brown.
Third, he’s got a
back-up band that seems not only to anticipate his every move,
but tailors their approach perfectly to their leader’s style –
the Hammond B-3 is always there but never overwhelming, the bass
adds a rhythmic dimension without being intrusive, and the drums
are always right where you want them, driving hard but also
hanging discreetly just behind the beat.
That leaves the band’s
leader right in front simultaneously weaving sinuous guitar
lines beneath gruff and evocative vocals on all kinds of blues
standards, from “Every Day I Have the Blues” to “Stormy Monday”
to “Sex Machine,” rendering each one with fidelity to the
original while adding his own unique touch, forged in the
passion of spontaneous improvisation.
Nothing to it, really. Just the
blues, reduced to its pure essence.