Thursday, 30 October 2008

CD Review - Seasick Steve

I Started Out With Nothing And I Still Got Most Of It Left
Warner Brothers

By M.D. Spenser

What a wonderful album.

Seasick Steve, the former hobo with the gray beard and soup-strainer moustache, burst into national consciousness with his ebullient 2006 appearance on Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny. His first solo album, “Dog House Music,” was good. This one’s better.

It’s laced with Steve’s addictive, syncopated Blues playing – single notes serving simultaneously as rhythm guitar and lead. The slide rocks, the hobo references ring true: “I can’t lose what I never had/And you can’t take what I ain’t got,” he sings on the title track.

But the delight is the love songs. Steve seems all rough edges and overalls, yet inside lives a gentle poet and musician.

The single ‘Walking Man’ is acoustic guitar and affecting vocals: ‘If you want me to stay I’ll stash my sleeping roll under your bed/That says more than anything in my life I ever said,” he sings.

‘Happy Man’ starts with acoustic Blues guitar. ‘Oh this life has knocked me down to my knees/And I think it’s time I get a little bit of that promised land,’ Steve croons above a quiet churchy chorus. Then Ruby Turner suggests he put his arms around her – and the song turns into stonkin’ gospel-soul, the backing vocals raucous and joyful. Happy man, indeed.

The transfer to a major label has done no harm. There are drums, backing vocals and guests – Turner, Nick Cave, KT Tunstall. But Steve retains the fierce originality that’s at the core of all good Blues.

And damn fine Blues this is.

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