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Music Review: Seasick Steve – Man From Another Time

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Leave it to the British to embrace the eccentric.

In the tradition of such English oddities as Jilted John and Wreckless Eric, 65 year old Seasick Steve is the latest in a long line of slightly off-kilter musical sensations to first hit it big across the pond, and who is now set to hit North American record shops on March 30.

The comparisons however end there.

Escaping from an abusive stepfather by running away from home at age 13, “Seasick” Steve Wold has lived the life of a vagabond hobo for most of his 65 years. His travels have taken him around the North American continent, across the pond, and back many times over. He has hitched all the trains, worked all the odd-jobs, and generally experienced the sort of life that would probably make for one hell of a movie directed by somebody like the Coen Brothers.

Seasick Steve — who got his name from once riding a ferry from Norway to Denmark and, in his own words “puking all night” — is in a word: authentic.

With his balding hair and long grey beard, Seasick Steve looks like the grizzled sort of salty dog you might encounter on a bar stool around closing time at the local biker bar, rather than someone who has sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall and played festivals from Glastonbury to Coachella. Did I also mention that his albums Dog House Music and I Started Out With Nothin’ And I Still Have Most Of It Left were platinum-sellers in England?

On Man From Another Time, his American debut album for Rykodisc, Seasick Steve combines this gritty sort of lyrical authenticity with an organic sound where things are left as simple as humanly possible. Steve is basically a one-man show here, captured on one gloriously analog recording.

Accompanied only by Swedish drummer Dan Magnusson, Steve wraps his vagabond tales of working in apple fields (“Wenatchee”) and spending time in a Spokane slammer (“Never Go West”), around a funky sort of country-blues that owes as equally to Mississippi Fred McDowell and Gram Parsons as it does to ZZ Top and Jack White.

And in case you missed it, yes both of those previously mentioned songs reveal a Pacific Northwest connection. Seasick Steve spent time in Olympia, Washington in the nineties, and even produced some early tracks for the likes of Modest Mouse.

But beyond bringing his considerable, undeniably authentic life experiences to songs like “Big Green And Yeller” (about the joys of driving a John Deere tractor) and “Happy (To Have A Job)” (I’ll let you fill in the blanks there), Seasick Steve plays one hell of a mean blues guitar.

From the tremelo-slapback of “Diddley Bo,” to the bottleneck blues of “Happy (To Have A Job”), to the sweet slide guitar of “Never Go West,” Seasick Steve cuts one mean-ass sounding black cat bone.

If you like your blues as greasy as a Louisiana catfish, be sure to Seasick Boogie on down to the record store on March 30th.

One more thing…don’t change the CD once its twelve listed tracks have played. There is a beautifully wistful version of Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I’d Could Cry” that as bonus tracks go, is more than worth sticking around for.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Greg Barbrick

    This sounds absolutely insane, as the best Brits do.

    I need to hear it.