Kate Jacobs’ ‘Home Game,’ produced by Dave Schramm, breaks seven-year silence
Dispatch from the Home Front:
Baseball! Sex! Murder! Marriage! Drinking! Children! Sex!
WITH NEW ALBUM HOME GAME, KATE JACOBS EMERGES
FROM SEVEN YEARS IN THE DOMESTIC TRENCHES;
RIPS OPEN THE REALITY OF FAMILY LIFE WITH KIDS
(AND FINDS IT PRETTY QUIET, THOUGH IT INCLUDES ALL OF THE ABOVE)
Dave Schramm-produced long-player to hit streets January 25, 2011
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Hoboken singer/songwriter Kate Jacobs found herself itchy to get out and play and write and sing and hang with her musician pals again. After busy and productive years of recording and touring — she put out four albums on the indie Bar/None label — the sweet appeal of life with two small children had overtaken her. Earlier this year she launched Radio Free Song Club, a live monthly podcast with old friends like Freedy Johnston, Peter Holsapple, Amy Rigby and Victoria Williams. Now she’s releasing her fifth album, Home Game.
Rolling Stone called her “a dazzlingly enlightened storyteller . . . her wisp of a voice slips gracefully between the joints of songs that stand weathered and stately.” NPR’s All Things Considered cited her “twangy three-minute pop songs that brim with ache and swoon and achieve the sort of sleight-of-hand narrative compression that marks the work of the best modern storytellers.” Yet, unless you’re in her small, rabid fan base, you may not know Kate Jacobs. Lately it’s not often that she leaves the neighborhood. With the indie Home Game — a dark, funny, passionate, tuneful and truthful album due out January 25, 2011 on Small Pond Music — that could change.
Home Game was made over a period of years busy with domestic events. “No sooner would we book the studio than someone would have a baby, or leave to go take care of their parents, or tend their marriage, or become a teacher,” she recalls.
Jacobs recorded the album with her “wonderful, familiar” band; long-time collaborator Dave Schramm (Yo La Tengo, the Replacements, Freedy Johnston) producing. They’ve developed their sound over the years, adding to ringing guitars, sticky melodies and twangy country some cool bossa nova (a childhood addiction to Stan Getz’s Jazz Samba is responsible for that one), some Songbookish swing tunes (ditto Cole Porter) and a little Motown too. “All in under 36 minutes!” she says happily.
These songs are dispatches from the home front. Only the first one, the sweet, moody rocker “Rey Ordonez,” is about being a musician — and it’s about missing being a musician. Jacobs observes, “I’ve learned from other memory pack rats — Robert Rauschenberg, John Updike, Joseph Cornell, Laura Ingalls — that by making a record of something you can soft pedal the loss. I love touring, but I left the road to have a family. So the first song is my record of band life, and the rest are what comes after. Writing the domestic life is an honorable tradition, and you have to live it to write it.”
Home Game is a time capsule. The title song, an unclassifiable pop gem written with music by Schramm, expresses the relief of having a baby after a very long wait. Jacobs wrote the classy swing tune “All the Time in the World” for her newborn son who is now in fifth grade. “$55 Hotel,” shredded by the band, is a bitter, wickedly funny story she heard in the park from another mom. “Jesus Has Been Drinking” is a back-porch waltz about a man she’s seen every day for 20 years on Hoboken’s main drag. The plaintive, soul-tinged “Make Him Smile” and sleepy dobro-drenched “Time for Bed” are about being married — the war and the peace of it. Chamber pop song “Love Comes and Goes” and the romping country duet “Good Enough” are about being unmarried, and a little weary of the pursuit. The bossa nova tune “On My Monitor” is about a doomed girl who popped up unbidden on an AOL news byte. “She haunted me for years before I wrote that,” Jacobs recalls.
Jacobs was born in Virginia and grew up in Europe, the daughter of an American writer and a Russian émigré. In New York in the ’80s she turned from ballet to postmodern performance art (Madonna was burning the midnight oil mixing tracks in the Music Building on 8th Avenue around that time — they shared a ballet teacher). She came late to Hank, Loretta and Dolly and “. . . gave it all up for concrete country lyricism. I learned three chords, played countless small hour gigs in East Village dives — Nightingale anybody? St. Marks Bar and Grill? — got my heart broke, wrote innumerable country songs, met my band, made a record, met my husband, learned a few more chords, wrote different songs, made two more records, had two sons, made another record, spent many hours in the park and at PTA meetings and packing lunches, and made another record, and here it is.”
When she got lonely for musical camaraderie Jacobs launched the Radio Free Song Club, recruiting Nicholas Hill (WFMU, WFUV, Sirius) to host. It’s a live monthly podcast with a group of writers contributing new songs for every show. Writers include Amy Rigby, Freedy Johnston, Victoria Williams, Laura Cantrell, Peter Holsapple, Robin Holcomb, Peter Blegvad and others. http://radiofreesongclub.com
Jacobs looks forward to shaking up the backpack routine with a new album. “I’ll play some gigs and do some radio and take a few little trips, like the old days. Everyone says the music business is unrecognizable but from where I sit at my kitchen table it seems much the same: songs and listeners. Well these songs are ready to go find their listeners — they’re probably at home, like me.”
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