Click to hear: “Catalina”
While seemingly every other act around town is putting out an EP this fall, singer-songwriter Jacob Augustine is heading in the other direction. Last month he dropped three (three!) albums online, each available for the low, low price of 50 cents.
The most fully realized of these is Frontier, nine tracks with full band arrangements. The Original Love is more of an odds-and-sods collection, and Goldhymns is an EP-length live solo set recorded at Mayo Street Arts. If I were you, I’d start at Frontier and delve into the other two as you wish.
Augustine is a bear of a man with a voice and intensity to match. Frontier firmly places him among the top troubadours in town. His strong, distinctive voice soars and swoops through songs that more often than not extend well past the five-minute mark, but keep your attention by evolving, rather than repeating. (“Feverland,” the haunting 13-minute closer, disintegrates into an atmospheric free-jazz outro about eight minutes in, but earns its keep for sheer guts.)
In his own words, Frontier is “a story of the system in which you and I live, and of the families who are engulfed and destroyed by it.” In other words, this should be the soundtrack to the Occupy Maine protest down in the park.
The richly textured arrangements add drums, bass, horns and keys to Augustine’s guitars. Bob Hamilton’s banjo on “Catalina” stands out as an inspired addition to the mix. Megan Martelle’s violin on “Methadone” makes that stirring song twice as good as it’d be without her.
There are times when Augustine’s voice sounds like Rick Danko’s, and others that conjure Richard Manuel’s ghost. On “Asthma,’ one of the most moving songs I’ve heard this year, he sounds like both departed Band-mates. “It was so good to see your smiling faces,” he croons. You’ll walk around with that line in your head for days after hearing it.
— Chris Busby
All three albums are available at jacobaugustine.bandcamp.com.