Great Highway is the impressive debut album from San Francisco-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Jacob Aranda. Hailing from the Midwest and relocating to the Bay Area in 2013, Jacob's talents span beyond songwriting and performing. In particular, he is a skilled luthier who handcrafts quality guitars using only hand tools, unlike some factory-made practices typical of mass-market instruments. He is also a current member of San Francisco-based indie band Paula Frazer & Tarnation and plays on their most recent album What Is And Was.
On the eight outstanding tracks that comprise Great Highway, we find Jacob on multiple instruments, including mandolin, banjo, violin, harmonica and guitar. This album is one smooth, pleasant listen - with a musical style in the vein of iconic singer-songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, and Jay Farrar. Great Highway is charming, warm and melancholic, with elements and influences that range from classic country to Southwestern-influenced folk. Jacob's commanding vocal delivery is a perfect match to the music - a solid vocal presence that accentuates and nicely complements the aural atmosphere.
My favorite tracks include the uptempo "Forget This Town" (with lyrics about moving on, following your dreams), "Black River Waltz" (with its sparse and spacious arrangement, reminiscent of classic early 70's country), and "No Other Heart" (with its warm, yearning and melodic chorus - and a harmonica that adds a lonesome, haunting touch to the track). Songs like "Half Life" and "Please" bring to mind elements of classic Glenn Campbell, with their easy, warm vibe. "Home" makes me think of warm summer evenings and Southwestern sunsets. "All in Vein" is an excellent uptempo opening track, and "Great Highway" is a melancholic, sad-sounding album closer that feels like a campfire gently dying out - a great way to end this excellent album.
Give Great Highway a listen for yourself, and keep an eye out for news and upcoming live performances from Jacob. For more information, visit Jacob's official website, follow him on social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) and find his music on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify and iTunes.