If you’ve never heard Jacobs’ vocals, the first song on You Call That Dark makes it clear what kinds of tones this album will deliver. Sonically, they aren’t dark, hon, but up-beat, country melodies with a surface-level simplicity that at first make the album’s philosophy seem old-fashioned. Lyrically, however, the tones cover more shadowy ground, with light and dark patches about old people, young people, farms and orchards, God and Shakespeare. Though far from pretentious, they address issues including – from the subtitles of the songs – “a theory of greatness” and “bow to your broken heart,” but then include humor and mockery such as in “chatting with a nun on a plane” and “an elderly grease monkey.” As you can see from these last two, many of the songs revolve around characters and how they deal with the conflicts between their own lives and the rest of the world’s progress.
The instruments vary from song to song, sometimes as minimal as a single piano part, and sometimes, utilizing instruments as diverse as organ, harmonium, gut-string dobro, xylophone, clarinet, mandolin, banjo, and violin by a crew of other musicians. Jacobs’ voice rises above them all, clear and high-pitched, and once you get used to the simple, almost childish sound, the lyrics reveal an observant and thoughtful perspective of life in an ever-increasingly more complicated world.