Singer/songwriter Jacob Robert Stephens, who splits his time between Troy and Missoula, continues to cast his poetic eye on the character and temperament of those living a hardscrabble rural life. His second album, with eight originals and two covers, follows 2012’s Here Comes Hindsight.
The troubadour grew up in northwest Montana and spent several years in Alaska, so weather plays prevalently as a metaphor in his folk poems. His figures endure chilly sunsets and cold lonely nights, and nurse broken hearts poked to bleeding by remembering old love affairs. The wistful story-songs are perfectly suited to his sandy baritone, and he unravels his tales over pretty melodies.
As usual, Stephens plays gobs of instruments here: guitars, mandolin, harmonica, ukulele, and drums. He has ample help from compadres Ryan Maynes, piano, drums, accordion and bass; Gibson Hartwell, pedal steel; Grace Decker, fiddle; Andy Dunnigan, Dobro; Jacob David Hurley, upright bass; and Roger Moquin on drums. Stephens sings harmony to many of his own leads, and gets vocal accompaniment from Brooke Sheridan and Jared Betz as well.
“Circles” is a good slow dancer. Sheridan shares lead vocals on “The Auction,” a glum yet melodic tale of a couple taking the final step before separation – splitting up their possessions.
“The Place Between” is an uplifting barnburner with sawin’ fiddle and wacky, wiggly Dobro. “What in the world am I to do, weekends ain’t enough for lovin’ you … where’s the place in between?”
“Carousel” is a love-struck duet, a ballad with a pretty ’60s chord progression and cool vocal interplay between Sheridan and Stephens.
This guy is adept at writing good songs in country and folk styles, and has the chops to pull it off. You can find him on Facebook.
– Mariss McTucker