Jake Shane tames rowdy bar with American songs
Jake Shane brought an enjoyable and understated performance to a bar in Luxembourg last Saturday. While at times the U.S. singer-songwriter would have benefitted from the support of a band, there is no doubt as to his artistic quality. He is a guitarist with strong technical skills, which fit the melancholic and bluesy songs American songs he performs.
Kicking off the night with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, he found his groove after a few songs. A few of his own songs stood out in particular. “High Desert Hymns”, for example, is an effective ballad, with a catchy vocal refrain. It is a smooth and bluesy song, but still full of grit, the lyrics full of quintessential American imagery.
Another song that stood out was ‘The Healer’, a rueful piece about crossroads where love was lost. His best song definitely ‘Upon the Earthen Floor’, which had a sea-shanty-meets-ABBA quality to it, that had the crowd tapping and nodding along enthusiastically.
Shane defines his music as ‘roots rock’. Much of what he showcased on Saturday felt closer to blues, with influences as wide ranging as rock, folk, and classical guitar. Shane has a remarkable skill using his voice and guitar to create tension one moment and cohesion in the next was remarkable.
He is an ‘artists artist’ more than a crowd pleaser —his skills are probably most evident to fellow musicians. Not everybody in the bar – Crossfire – had come for the music and the crowd was tough and sometimes rowdy. Crossfire is a lively venue in the Gare area, often brimming with the hustle and bustle of people on a night out. Yet seasoned professional Shane took it all in his stride. While he occasionally seemed to lose the attention of the crowd, people sat listening quietly at other moments. When someone asked him to turn up the volume, he answered: ‘I’m always hesitant to turn it up because I’ve got bad memories of being told to turn it down’. It earned him a laugh which Shane used to reel everyone in for the next song.
As the evening wore on, the bar quietened down, and Shane started to impress his audience more. He closed the evening with a raw and personal rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen, whom Shane during a chat at the bar said is one of his inspirations. Bob Dylan is another, as is ‘pre-war blues’ and ‘Texas blues’. But Shane also said: ‘I studied flamenco guitar for six years and fell in love with it’. Oh, and then there were the vinyl albums he collected with his dad during much of his childhood…
Originally hailing from Springfield, Illinois, Shane has spent much of the last decade in Madrid. That is also where he experienced the pandemic, a tough blow for him as it was for so many other performing artists. ‘It’s not just that I couldn’t work’ Shane said, ‘but also that I couldn’t plan to work’. Nevertheless, the coronavirus also brought him a lot of good. Instead of planning his tours, the artist ‘settled into [his] work’, ‘wrote a bunch of songs, and even finished this current album’, entitled ‘Things Hidden Away’.
Over the months of lockdown - particularly severe in Spain - Shane ‘fell in love with the guitar again’, spending upwards of eight hours a day playing. He was also able to combine his instrument with another passion: teaching, giving online courses to make a living through the months of lockdown months. He wrote a theory book and an online course on ‘Open D tuning’. All in all, a powerful example of how the confines of the pandemic acted a lightning rod for creativity and innovation. And when he did start touring again in Europe, he travelled only by train and bus - doing his bit to save the planet.