“Hey – I’m just sittin’ here,” Mike Jacoby snarl-sings in “Nevermind Me,” one of the I’ve-had-enough songs on his recently released album NorthEastSouthWest. Over the course of the record’s eleven countrified-rock tracks, Jacoby consistently defines a well-articulated personal creed. Lyrically, the creed is a confident one that seems to denounce and resist the attempted interferences of the album’s cast of supporting characters. Characters who feel that they know what the songs’ narrator wants better than he does, characters who want to run his life for him. Consider the aforementioned track “Nevermind Me,” in which the narrator is picked on by everyone from his girl to his employer for merely showing up, for merely being himself. Consider too “What’s That Got to Do With Me,” in which the narrator is surrounded by three minutes’ worth of fact-lyrics that a theoretical chick or pal is hurling at him, fact-lyrics which point out various injustices and overly-prideful personal accomplishments the narrator does not care to hear. NorthEastSouthWest presents a musical narrative persona who seems to be done with taking orders, done with being on the receiving end of other people’s personal smalltime games. This persona’s brand of clarity presumably comes from truly knowing himself, from knowing what he will or will not tolerate. As a seasoned singer-songwriter Jacoby has earned this clarity and deserves to showcase it as he does in NorthEastSouthWest.
A founding member of reliable alt-country band Haymaker, and based in Long Beach, California, Mike Jacoby has released NorthEastSouthWest as the follow-up to 2013’s The Big 5-0, his breakaway solo effort. On the latest album, Jacoby has written, played every instrument on, and arranged, produced, and engineered all eleven tracks. Musically, the record’s creed is a multi-dimensional, well-informed, and beautifully crafted one that incorporates a myriad of genre elements and tonal colors. Jacoby’s always-impressive guitar prowess seems to have been taken up a technical notch or two since The Big 5-0, manifesting this time as a virtuosic ability to play any and every riff and chord sequence imaginable. “Talk a Good Game” wonderfully utilizes a complicated Latin-inspired guitar lick, while “Hell if I Know” issues forth spookily moody banjo work. Certain tracks – “Lay of the Land” to name one – draw on the best elements of fun college rock with energetic whirls of party-inducing guitarring. “Where She Goes” is the album’s standout upbeat song, a narratively intriguing number that also manages to convincingly create a 90’s rock radio-worthy aural landscape. The slower and more introspective “Lie in Bed” may be the best example of Jacoby’s songwriting on the record, with lyrics that are at once economic and resonant with emotional lushness. If comparisons to other artists must be made, they would surely include wry songsmith Todd Snider, Wilco on their A.M. record, Steve Earle during his Transcendental Blues period, or The Rolling Stones during one of Mick Jagger’s twangier moods.
NorthEastSouthWest provides for an easy and enjoyable countrified rock listening experience that simultaneously formulates a mature and confident artist’s statement. A statement reminding the listener – as the characters in the noteworthy track “Explaining to Do” are reminded – that to feel most alive, a person has to define his own terms and live by them truthfully, according to his own individual dogma. The best albums are born from this place and Mike Jacoby’s NorthEastSouthWest is no different.