|“Embracing individuality, Chris Yakopcic has more in mind than singing and fingerpicking guitar in emulation of past bluesmen…the Ohioan leans into classics by Robert Johnson and Fred McDowell with the pleasure of discovery, finding his own expressive qualities to share with listeners.” Downbeat
One of the fortunate side effects of the pandemic lockdown was the proliferation of live streaming shows from solo artists and small groups, which created a renewed appreciation and demand for such intimate performances. Fingerstyle acoustic blues guitarist, singer-songwriter and instructor Chris Yakopcic has been playing the circuit of bars, cafés and listening rooms for over a decade. His third album Live At The Hidden Gem, recorded in one special evening at the Dayton Ohio music club, captures Yakopcic at his finest; delivering award-winning pre-war Delta and Piedmont Blues inspired by his heroes Robert Johnson, Bill Broonzy, Blind Blake and more. The twelve-song set is an even split of originals and cover songs, each showcasing his jaw dropping talent at rhythmic, high-energy thumb-bass picking guitar patterns and sweeping dynamics that accompany his homespun sincere vocal stylings.
Yakopcic opens with his jaunty tune “Gotta Get Goodbye Somehow,” its rolling rhythm defying the physical constraints of five fingers on one hand. Blind Blake is known as ragtime guitar’s foremost fingerpicker and many of his songs have been transcribed for continued study, on which Yakopcic demonstrates his scholarship in the style with a deft reading of Blake’s “Chump Man Blues” from 1929. The funky “When It All Goes Wrong At Once” is a hard luck and trouble narrative told over a fast-moving groove. He digs deep into Robert Johnson’s 1937 Delta Blues cornerstone “Traveling Riverside Blues,” easing slowly into the open tuning 12-bar then ramping his slide playing on dobro to a fury. “The Hangover” and its delicately picked shuffle is a contrast to the tale of man lamenting his life choices on the morning after the night before. He takes Leonard Cohen’s statement about the songwriting craft “Tower Of Song,” and transforms it into a frenzy of bluegrass licks and tongue twisting vocal phrases.
An affectionate reading of “Kind Hearted Woman” further reflects Yako’s devotion to the art of the Delta Blues. His National Trojan Roundneck Resonator Guitar sings like a gospel choir on “Sounds Of The Highway,” painting a vibrant picture of the traveling minstrel life. Yakopcic elevates the “hammer on” guitar technique to a new high on his brisk remake of Tom Waits’ rumbling train song “2:19,” and the slinky “Sweet Time Blues,” pays tribute to the maker with a sampling of St Louis Blues. His heartfelt ballad “My Last Three Strings,” speaks of tender mercies and better days. Yako pulls out all the stops on “Preachin’ Blues,” playing lead and rhythm all at once and revving up the Robert Johnson standard for a pyrotechnic finale.
Live At The Hidden Gem by Chris Yakopcic is the portrait of a master craftsman in love with his work.
Rick J Bowen
Chris Yakopcic is a fingerstyle acoustic blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter inspired by pre-war delta and Piedmont players. His guitar playing builds on the rhythmic and often high energy thumb-bass picking patterns innovated by Robert Johnson, Bill Broonzy, and Blind Blake to name just a few. In January 2015, Chris was a finalist in the 31st International Blues Challenge (top 8 of 100 competing solo/duo acts) in Memphis, TN. He has qualified for the IBC four times after winning various regional competitions.
Chris Yakopcic performs regularly at bars and listening rooms mostly located throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania but has also travelled to perform at venues in Colorado, Maryland, and Tennessee. He has performed on the main stage at blues festivals in Dayton and Cincinnati. He also recently started teaching and holding workshops on acoustic blues guitar. In 2011 he recorded his debut album, Done Found My Freedom ‘fore My Technique, and released his sophomore album, The Next Place I Leave, in 2015.
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