Debut album full of polished songwriting gems.
Jake Ybarra (pronounced e-Bar-a) is a singer-songwriter hailing originally from Greenville, South Carolina. His 4 track EP ‘Basement Songs’ came out in 2020, and saw him quickly gathering a following, leading initially to management support and subsequently to a record deal. Which brings us to ‘Something In The Water’, his debut full album.
The first thing to note is that this is a quantum leap forward from his initial recordings; now, his songs are wrapped in a rich, warm backing which nonetheless gives them space to breathe and maintains the freshness of a new artist emerging.
Some songs retain a very acoustic sheen – check out ‘Disappear’ which has an early Dylan vibe, or ‘Savannah’s Song’, which has the kind of finger-picking groove employed by the young Josh Ritter. ‘A Whole Lot To Remember’ has a kind of country rockabilly feel that recalls Gram Parsons when the rock and roll urge moved him.
However, if this makes it sound like some sort of tribute record, it really isn’t; rather, Ybarra appears to be someone who is tuned into the lineage that has come before him but is bringing his own fresh take to the music scene. There is a lot of joy to be had in songs which have been lovingly crafted, and then realised by musicians who play with taste and guile. On top of this, Ybarra has a voice which is a welcoming instrument in itself, with an easy tenor swing to his delivery. His potential seems limitless, and he has delivered an opening salvo which is already a signal of the real thing.
Lyrically he is reaching beyond the standard tropes of the earnest young wordsmith; he is not afraid to tell story songs, and closer ‘Silly Little Things’ is an extraordinary effort for a debut album, looking at the world through the eyes of a widower who is trying his best to get through, having had six years on his own after losing his wife. “My daughters always say/You know, that maybe I should date/ But their mother is the one/and for her I’ll have to wait/And it’s the silly little things/like having coffee with my cream/That remind me how good it is to be alive” It is both heartbreaking and uplifting, and a fitting end to a very, very fine record.