After shifting toward roots-rock near the end of a decade spent fronting Baltimore jam band The Bridge, Cris Jacobs went deeper with his twangy, bluesy 2012 solo debut, Songs for Cats and Dogs. Though Rolling Stone named Jacobs one of “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know” after he released his sophomore LP, Dust to Gold, in early 2017, that designation felt reductive considering his rather wide Americana embrace. To wit, between the two releases, Jacobs scored opening slots for classic rock legend Steve Winwood and modern outlaw Sturgill Simpson while recording a collaborative album with New Orleans funk icon Ivan Neville.
Dust to Gold often recalls Simpson or Chris Stapleton, but Jacobs gives his songs enough character to set himself apart from his boundary-pushing contemporaries. Though steel guitar dominates throughout the languid shuffle “Kind Woman,” its melody suggests back-porch pop, while the snarling Telecaster leads of “Jack the Whistle and the Hammer” curl around a R&B backbone. His earthy, soulful vocals steal the show on “Cold Carolina,” while “Delivery Man” and “Shine Your Weary Light” find Jacobs unleashing scorching solos over Southern funk. Indeed, even on the sparse closer “Leaving Charm City,” Jacobs’ ace band proves its power is surrounding his country-based tunes with diverse sounds.