Album Review: Seasick Steve

walkin' man: the best of seasick steve

This week, you, our lovely Gigseen fans have spoken. We asked you which album from this week's releases you would most like to see reviewed. The votes were cast, and let me tell you, boy was it close! So close in fact, it was a tie between Snow Patrol's Fallen Empires and Seasick Steve's new album. So I accepted the gauntlet, and made the decision. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it! I present to you, this week's winning album; Walkin' Man: The Best of Seasick Steve.

Seasick Steve's (AKA Steven Gene Wold) story of rags to riches is an incredible and life-affirming one. After leaving home to escape an abusive step-father, he spent the next two decades living on the streets in Tennesse and Mississippi, performing as a session musician and tiptoeing on the edges of a musical scene that included icons like Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell. It's somewhat heart-warming that at the ripe old age of 65, Steve got his commercial breakthrough as an unlikely but utterly deserving candidate.

Walkin' Man.. features twenty-one tracks and is the bluesman's first full-length album; essentially a compilation including three tracks from 2010's mini-collection, Songs For Elisabeth. The album is compelling, delightfully unpolished and wholly authentic. Some of the titles of the songs are typically bluesy and brimming with melancholy and woe (I Started Out With Nothing...And I Still Got Nothing left, Don't Know Why She Love Me But She Do), and others like Dog House Boogie just make you smile. Seasick Steve follows the classic Blues conventions; repeating single lines, the down-and-out narrative, blues chord progressions and the distinguishable 'shuffle' or walking bass groove. However, as well as sticking to traditions, he's not afraid to play around, bringing in other musical elements and influences such as folk, celtic folk and bluegrass, in the track Treasures.

Seasick Steve's numerous and natural musical abilities in this album are astounding. We hear so many variations on the Blues style, from tracks like Fallen Off A Rock, which could be straight from the 1920's/30's, and the more modern blues interpretations such as You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks, which hints at rock and roll from the 50's with slightly heavier instrumentation. Of course, these different vibes are also down to the album's production; a purposely raw-sounding collection of songs with minimal production for authenticity, but also to allow the music speak for itself. The instruments on the record; skillful slide guitar, banjo and violins/fiddles, make for a hugely refreshing sound, and the versatility of Steve's guitar playing alone is something quite inspiring.

The often rough vocals and gruff tones of Steve's voice deliver every word with a sense of genuine meaning and personal strife. His unexpected deal with a major record label (not forgetting three consecutive UK top ten albums), doesn't seem to have changed Steve, as he stays true to his busking roots. Walkin' Man covers so many genres, from the grungy blues of Cheap, to the jangly rockabilly of 8 Ball, while Gospel tinges find their way onto Happy Man and harder, more rock and roll aspects appear on tracks like Diddley Bo. Because of this vast mixture, one might assume a confused, mis-matched feel, but it's quite the opposite; a fun, down-to-earth record showcasing an impressive body of work.

You can listen to a track from the album, below - Don't Know Why She Loves Me But She Do: