Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Bronzerat Records
John Lee Hooker built a long, rich career out of writing the same song over and over again for close to 50 years. That's not to say Hooker wasn't a great songwriter, as he most certainly was, but for him the most important thing wasn't the melody or the lyrics, but the boogie, the ceaseless forward rhythm that drove his music with an unholy force and was the foundation of nearly all his great songs. Seasick Steve is no John Lee Hooker, but he does share Hooker's true devotion to the deep and sinewy groove, an element that's run strong through Steve's music since he belatedly launched his recording career in 2006, and his albums have been cut from similar musical cloth, with the Seasick One wailing hard on a buzzy slide guitar while his rhythm section stomps behind him like the beat owes them money.
Late-blooming bluesman Seasick Steve has only been releasing records for a little under a decade, and despite being longer in the tooth than most six-string slingers in today's blues rock sphere, his main goal is still to "get on that stage and play you my very best show. " That line, from groovy Sonic Soul Surfer opener "Roy's Gang," reassures listeners that the California native's desire to write and play is still very much alive, as he continues to ride the wave that took him from migrant to musician. While his sixth studio album doesn't necessarily break any new ground within the genre, it's more about lateral movement as he surfs through the 12-track sonic sea of rock and folk.
Review Summary: Summertime boyBy now, anyone accustomed to Seasick Steve's antics is not going to change his opinion on him. This hard working fella has been steadily releasing records every two years for over a decade now. He's got lots of stories to share and fame hasn't changed him a bit. The man still enjoys crafting guitars out of scrap, driving his pickup truck and being a farmer when he's not performing at the biggest festivals and venues all over the world.
Long of beard, bottle of Jack in hand and with his ever-present selection of self-constructed personalised instruments, Seasick Steve seems to have been in our lives forever. Yet his big break, filling the ‘here’s a quirky acoustic act’ slot on Later… With Jools Holland that did so much for KT Tunstall, didn’t come until 2006. Since then, the septuagenarian with the much heralded backstory as a travelling hobo has been a reliable crowd-pleaser on the festival circuit with his brand of gnarly blues music.
To answer an old rhetorical question: yes an old dog can learn new tricks, but he’s got to want to. Seasick Steve is an old dog; he says as much on Sonic Soul Surfer. Hell, there are two full songs dedicated to four-legged companions. Much like the hounds on “Dog Gonna Play” and “Swamp Dog”, Seasick Steve wheezes and growls his way through Sonic Soul Surfer, showing a few new cards up his sleeve, but mostly sticking to a tired and true blues crawl.
I’ve always had plenty of time for Seasick Steve. It’s easy to be cynical about anybody who was swept to something like overnight fame by a performance on Later. .