Tobias Ben Jacob is one half of the alt-folk duo Jacob and Drinkwater, and a former member of the acclaimed but sadly now-defunct Devonshire acoustic four-piece The Roots Union; with that kind of pedigree, any solo affair was always going to be a strong contender, and 2017’s ‘A Polyphonic Life’ was certainly a stormer of an album, including two songs which went on to feature in Martha Pinson and Martin Scorcese’s indie movie ‘Tomorrow’.
‘Refuge’, Jacob’s new album, is an entirely different affair, a vibrant collection of electronica-tinged narrative folk-tinged songs inspired by people at the heart of the global refugee crisis. ‘A Bird Made Out Of Clay’ is the first track (and lead single) is a beautiful, poignant take on how a single, random act of kindness can bring hope and charm to life even in what seems, at first, to be the bleakest and darkest of places, Jacob’s lifting, lilting voice carrying the track over a sparse arrangement of synth swells and sampled human choral voices. It’s melancholy yet hopeful, the gentle guitar line filling the space between Jacob’s story-telling vocal, the tale – like the rest of the album – created and jotted down in lay-bys and car-parks during Jacob’s six-day-week job as a delivery driver.
Inspired partly by Zekria Farzad, an Afghan refugee and former journalist who set up the Wave For Hope For The Future School at the Moria Refugee Camp in Lesbos, and partly by the Ai Weiwei film ‘Human Flow’, which documents the crisis, ‘Refuge’ is a hugely important piece of work, a delicate, fascinating musical accomplishment with a deeply meaningful message for us all; ‘A Bird Made Out Of Clay’ is the perfect, sublime first single and introduction to Jacob’s oeuvre.
Review by Alex Holmes