Eclectic Guitarist Presents Boho Bricolage Concert
Twelve-string guitar player Neil Jacobs performed for a large crowd at The Cat in the Cream this past Saturday. Jacobs is a self-taught musician who has been touring and performing since the 1980s. Though he calls himself a “folk gypsy musician,” this title only begins to encompass the broad and unique sound that Jacobs has cultivated.
Jacobs describes his music as “little touches of this and that” and credits his early interest in guitar playing to a homemade shoebox he created at the age of eight. His technique has certainly expanded since his youth — after graduating to the 12-string guitar, he now plays folk music focusing on storytelling and community gatherings, collected from various “gypsy haunts” of Spain, Russia and Eastern Europe where he has lived and studied over the years.
While his music has been lumped into the Celtic music category — his latest album, Secret Places, was even named one of the top Celtic albums of the year by a Columbus radio show — it is heavily influenced by Spain and the Balkan states. These influences are certainly shown in his song “Spanedonia,” whose name is derived from the combination of Spanish and Macedonian themes. Perhaps an even better example lies in the title of his third album, “American Gypsy,” which clearly alludes to his musical affiliations and style.
If twelve-string guitar itself seems an unusual instrument, the same can be said for Jacob’s music. The 90-minute set included songs from his four releases, a mix of classical songs he jokingly referred to as “classical butcherings” and folk gypsy songs he has adapted to the 12-string guitar. Jacobs was very comfortable with his instrument and his performance was engaging. The songs were wonderfully fast-paced and intricate — it was easy to imagine them being played in gypsy groups in Spain and Eastern Europe. Because his playing style involved strumming, fingerwork, picking and guitar slaps, his sound, while distinct, was very characteristic of traditional European Gypsy music.
The audience seemed to really enjoy not only his musical style but also his
inter-song banter. Jacobs made a point of filling the space between his songs
with jokes and self-deprecating humor. When discussing his family’s
non-musical background, he referred to his mother as saying she “wants me
to become an oceanographer someday.” For the sake of his fans — and
after Saturday, that number is growing — let’s hope it doesn’t