Avi Jacob – Surrender
Skate Mountain Records – 23 March 2018
Avi Jacob is an up and coming singer-songwriter based in Providence, RI. His new EP “Surrender” feels like a breakthrough release, with astute songwriting, inspired vocals and subtle arrangements. Those arrangements got some help from The Felice Brothers, James (keys) and Simone (producer), who worked on the EP alongside Jacob in the deep of winter a year ago.
Released on the indie label Skate Mountain Records, the narrative is frequently dark and confessional, coming from a soul who’s faced down troubles. His experience growing up in isolation is instructive – Jacob struggled with health problems and spent a good portion of his teenage years alone in his bedroom. In interviews, he’s acknowledged that addiction issues have damaged his personal life and relationships. In his case, some brilliant songwriting emerged from those experiences.
Every song on the EP stands out. Lyrically, the confessional lament, Pickup Truck sees the songwriter at his finest, inviting comparisons to Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams and even Dylan. Like Isbell’s Elephant, the song sweeps you up and shakes you down to the core. Anyone who’s ever had regrets in life (that’s all of us) can relate…
“Oh Dear Father/Even sold your pickup truck, when I was down on my luck and how did I repay?
I left you down to die in Tennessee.
Now I’m tryin’ to understand, is this the folly of man?/Or can I be forgiven for what I’ve done?
Sincerely, you’re disgrace of an only son”
In a recent interview, Jacob’s described the song as “a plea for forgiveness from a place none can ever come.” Stark writing indeed.
All the Liars is a stunningly beautiful poem, sung tenderly with a simple guitar accompaniment. It comes across raw and honest, as pure as anything I’ve ever heard in a song. His lyrics shift back and forth from the real world to the personal realm.
“Saw my childhood come down with the towers/I seen light in the darkest hour.” A glimmer of hope perhaps, but doubts are there too, underscored with the creative use of an intentional pause in the music. “Say that you love me? (pause) Won’t talk about me behind me back.” The grand pause, as it is sometimes known, says as much in this composition as do the lyrics.
One and Only sees the narrator leaving his young son to go out on tour. Once again, it’s a solid piece of songwriting:
“Backed my wagon into the road, Hallelujah/Pane of glass like the wailing wall, Hallelujah
You’re the reason for all I do, but if that were true I’d stay with you”
The radio-friendly New England is the requisite road song, penned on a drive from Charlestown, SC (where he lived for many years) to Boston. With the Felice on organ and backup vocals, it’s a waltz-driven break-up song … “Leavin you darlin’ is grievin’ me so.”
The soulful closer, Surrender, is another song of regret, propelled by Jacob’s humble songwriting and pump organ. “Change the sheets on my bed, think of all the lies that I’ve told…” It closes with the reminder never to surrender. “But don’t wave your white flag for me, til’ you dry your cryin’ eyes.” Good advice for any artist!
No doubt, Avi Jacob is a musician who stands out from the pack. The 5 song EP packs a punch and shows an artist with unlimited potential. With a full album in the works, Jacob is someone to keep an eye on.