Jake LaBotz is an authentic modern bluesman. Don’t let his lack of pigment fool you.
He’s got stories to tell. Some of them take life in his songs. A magnetic vortex in person, Jake’s inked and weathered presence naturally evokes questions. But there’s an unearthly gravity on him which directs me to respectfully steer wide around his dangerously provocative character.
He’s been dubbed today’s Hank Williams by pal Steve Buscemi. Subtract the honkytonk and, even with hard-living in the bag hands-down, add some years and silver linings, and there you’ll find Hank in Jake: a deep, long, round sound. The more I listen to Williams’ Lost Highway, the more the similarities seep in like a palatably gooey salve.
Jake at once comes across as teen punk (it actually kind of freaks me out how much he can appear like the dark clone of Ron Howard’s Richie from Happy Days), worn soul and still drop within a vast puddle of existence.
One thing’s for sure, Jake LaBotz is a kickass asskicker, and that’s a term I wouldn’t toss around lightly.
Engaging wholeheartedly in Jake’s music gets me thinking he accidentally sprouted up in the carbon copy side of an alternate family tree. His story and his sound bespeak birthing from a legendary blues lineage.
There’s a strong flavor of John Lee Hooker in Jake’s musical delivery – no surprise since his original mentor, Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis learned from and played with said blues deity from his teen years.
Perhaps Jake’s biggest influence is delta bluesman Honeyboy Edwards, whom he met hanging around Maxwell Street in his hometown of Chicago. LaBotz wears some kindred threads to Honeyboy’s life story. The likeness doesn’t stop with his manner of speech (note the distinguishing character here is that you can actually understand what he’s saying) or with the shiny front tooth. Perhaps it’s by design, but rest assured it’s far from feigned – Jake LaBotz rightfully earned each bit of it through his own multifaceted array of experiences. The resemblance to Edwards follows in Jake’s unhurried playing style, replete with metal finger picks.
Of course there’s a semblance of Robert Johnson in the mix with the added depth of Jake’s rare, rooted, rich vocal intonation. All these parallels stem from a singular source. In the words of Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) “anytime you thinking evil, you thinkin’ about the blues…”.
Today, Jake LaBotz enjoys continual transformation. A veteran actor, Jake calls LA home. When we saw him last, he shared his excitement about a new pad right in the thick of it in Chinatown. He practices Aikido and Tibetan Buddhist meditation, the latter of which he tried with limited success to incorporate in his 2008 Tattoo Across America tour. According to the artist, there was “a small group of middle-aged women” who embraced his pre-show meditation sessions. Whatever. It’s an ambitious enough mash-up to pioneer a tattoo studios tour.
Labeled or not, one attribute I most admire in Jake is the way he carries a seeming presence of wonder to be here moving about in the marvelous machine of himself. I get the feeling he’s cruising around on bonus time, like a shelter pup who drew the card of rescue by a generous, affectionate millionaire.
Still, even though the world is his candy shop, LaBotz’s songs cut loose in a howl akin to meloncholy junkyard dog.
Listen to the Exclusive Live tracks (option/click to download):