From 2001-2011, Cris Jacobs led the Baltimore-based band The Bridge. He released his debut solo album, Songs for Cats and Dogs, in 2012. 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. In 2016, Jacobs released his first record with the Cris Jacobs band, Dust to Gold. In March 2017, Rolling Stone listed him as in its 10 Country Artists You Need to Know. Jacobs and New Orleans heavyweight Ivan Neville recorded a collaborative album under the name Neville Jacobs, released in 2017.
On Color Where You Are, Cris Jacobs cooks up a funky, groove-filled, soulful country stew. Owing as much to the psychedelia of the Grateful Dead and the Southern Rock of Little Feat as any traditional country act, Jacobs brings the best part of a jamband sensibility to his compositions. They feel organic, they breathe, they’re well-paced. Jacobs works well with his band, and together they really make the music feel alive. Jacobs stands out, though, as he plays lead guitar and sings lead vocals.
The album covers a diverse and, in places, unusual assortment of topics. Some are serious: “Under the Big Top” criticizes our desire to be pandered to over our willingness to think for ourselves. “Painted Roads” takes listeners on a journey through cosmic, mythological imagery to show them that life is about living for the present. “Rooster Coop” goes in an entirely different direction, playing up the wackiness of love affairs amongst barnyard animals.
“Ghosts of Evangeline” does some complex work with reference and meaning. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the epic poem “Evangeline” about the forced expulsion of the Acadians (French settlers) of British Canada—a drama—later loosely adapted for the stage as a musical comedy. These multiple points of reference allow for the song to simultaneously cast different timbres of mood and meaning. Of course, I could be completely wrong, and this could be a paean to the actress Evangeline Lilly (from Lost and the Hobbit and Ant-Man franchises).
No unifying theme lyrical theme holds Color Where You Are together. Rather, what makes this album gel is Jacobs’s approach to the material. Sonically, Jacobs continues, as he did on Dust to Gold, to fuse various genres, especially country and funk, and to play it on a masterful way. His writing is left-of-center, at times oddball, at times dreamy, at times almost trippy. If pressed to give a quick description of this album, I’d say that Color Where You Are is Cris Jacobs playing damn good psychedelic country-rock in the vein of Little Feat. And that’s no small accomplishment.