Seasick Steve – [Album]

Sunday, 07 March 2010

Since the stream of original bluesmen that flowed out of the Mississippi Delta began drying up years ago, the ranks of remaining players making the music has been infiltrated by a number of well-meaning and earnest impostors who have kept the spirit of the genre going on life support. Sometimes the music can be good but, more often than not, it just honestly feels like a bunch of weak-ass replicas peddling a dog and pony show of “what the blues used to be.” That sounds bleak but, conversely, once in a while a real scene develops (like Holly Spings, AK) that doesn't just feel like the real thing returned, it is; the catch is the character and surplus or lack of it that a musician has.

There's no arguing that Steven “Seasick Steve” Wold has personality in spades.

Seasick Steve's fourth album, Man From Another Time, finds all the dominoes falling just right for the singer as he belts out a set of twelve songs blessed with biting humor (never before has the phrase “You see me laughin'” been more appropriate in a blues context) and incendiary chops that don't ask for respect, they command it.

Wold stomps and swaggers right out of the gate with the more-forceful-than-you'd-think single-string guitar salvo “Diddley Bo” that instantly sets a playful tone of Bob Log-ish sarcasm but also holds diamonds under the bravado. 'How can that be possible,' you ask, dismayed. 'How much power can a single string have?' Plenty; there's weight in the riffs here that snaps listeners to attention and while the air and impression left by the song is light (no killing floors here, no strange fruit in the poplar trees), those chops are already in place and working.

You'll feel it the moment you realize what's happening in “Diddley Bo,” you'll realize you have the choice to come along or not but, if you're in, sit up straight and have some respect because this player is on the job. After “Diddley Bo,” the guitarist trades one string for six and begins brewing up a rich stew of the blues that intermingles vintage vibes and new ones seamlessly and presents them in such a way that it almost feels like you're bearing witness to the emergence of a new wave of old values. The songs combine revivalist strains like Log's with decidedly old-fashioned lyrical themes and styles (check out “Happy (To Have A Job)” which sounds like it would have been an anthem during the Depression, but still sounds fantastic in a modern context) and that cross-pollination proves to be scintillating as listeners wait to see which side of the timeline the album will fall on. It's evident that the singer understands what a conundrum it must be for listeners, and so he places himself right along with them (check the “When I walk down the street, I feel like a man from another time” rumination that opens the title track), thus further adding to the singer's appeal.

Nothing is particularly decided in the end as Steve simply burns the whole thing down with a bit of methodical flare (“Seasick Boogie”) but, by then, listeners don't much care; they're all so hooked by what Wold is peddling, they don't want to see him go. Therein lies the genius of Man From Another Time – by crossing the old and new schools but subscribing to neither and simply using what he needs from both to get the job done, Seasick Steve reclaims the true spirit of the blues: beg, borrow, steal – he's done whatever he had to in order to get this music out of him. It's a little desperate and a little thrilling; there aren't many folks that won't be able to relate with that.



Seasick Steve – “Cheap” (Live) – [mp3]

Seasick Steve – “Cut My Wings” (Live) – [mp3]

Seasick Steve – My Donny” (Live) – [mp3]


Man From Another Time
is out now and available as a UK import from Amazon. Buy it here .

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