Exudes an effortlessness that can only come from a lot of living.
Nick Barraclough 2009
There aren’t many artists around who can get a groove out of a one-stringed guitar, but Seasick Steve can. It’s not so much a guitar as a piece of two by four with a string nailed to it. He calls it his Diddley Bow, and the resultant groove is exactly that as laid down by the bloke who (almost) had that name, only in reverse.
This third solo album is a cracking collection, one that rings with the depth of twang comparable only to the likes of the legendary Ry Cooder. That’s not surprising, given that Steve (real name Steven Gene Wold) sticks just as assiduously to the analogue way, all valve amps and ribbon microphones along with the extraordinarily-built instruments he uses: he introduces track three by saying, “Alright, little cigar box…”
That track is called Happy (To Have a Job), and it sums up Steve’s career. Born “around the post-war period” in Oakland, in the San Francisco Bay area, it seems he was a genuine, bona-fide hobo, fathering children fairly liberally, hitting it off with the grunge fraternity in Washington. Then came a move to Norway with the wife, which included a booze-cruise to Denmark, his reaction to which gave him the nickname he doesn’t particularly like, but is lumbered with.
Then, a couple of years ago, a few prescient UK festival bookers took a chance and he became the darling of the circuit, working audiences brilliantly and showing just how few trappings you need to nail it when you have this sort of natural ability. Steve’s spell in the spotlight might have arrived late in his life, but nobody can argue it’s not been deserved.
He has produced, written, recorded and engineered this release, and performs everything except the drums – here, Dan Magnusson steps in. Some listeners may bemoan a lack of bass in the mix, and to hear this material with a little more low end could be a treat, but that really is being picky. The groove, as you might already have noted, is impeccable; the songs are authentic and it all sounds so effortless – an effortlessness that can only come from a lot of living.