Seasick Steve Walkin’ Man: The Best of Seasick Steve Review

Compilation. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

His first best-of packs in 21 tracks and comes backed by a great live DVD.

Mike Diver 2011

When Seasick Steve broke commercially with 2006's Dog House Music, his second LP, breaching the UK top 40 and immediately improving the Bronzerat label’s coffers several times over, it was an entirely predictable turn of events. After all, a 65-year-old who’d spent large portions of his life as a hobo, working odd jobs as a carnie and a cowboy, and who played bizarre self-customised instruments consisting of car parts, duct tape and carpet was exactly what the mainstream was crying out for. It was written all over the charts of 2005: please, save us from this Coldplay and Kaiser Chiefs nonsense. Give us a bearded bluesman with an infectiously cheery grin and a back-story worthy of Hollywood adaptation, said the public. Possibly.

Whether they did or didn’t is moot (likely: not), as it’s precisely what we got. And things got even better for the man born Steven Gene Wold back in 1941: his third collection, I Started Out With Nothin’ and I Still Got Most of It Left, was a major label debut that peaked at an impressive nine on these shores, and sold well enough internationally to make world tours a viable option. 2009’s Man From Another Time broke the UK top five, and 2011’s You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks was his third UK top 10 hit in a row. Inspiration might be in short supply for Steve these days, with lyrical tropes recycled enough times to have the Scotch Tape skeleton in a fade-away panic, but perspiration – breathlessly boisterous live performances that laugh in the face of old age – has carried Seasick Steve to heights that his midlife self could never have foreseen.

Walkin’ Man is his first best-of set. At 21 tracks it’s possibly twice as long as it might be – but it certainly offers value for the first-timer, taking in cuts from each of his five LPs. A deluxe edition is backed by a DVD featuring Steve in action at London’s Brixton Academy: it’s in this environment where he really shines, his innate showmanship filling the very biggest venues the world can offer (he’s previously sold out the Royal Albert Hall, as well as lighting up stages at Glastonbury and Latitude).

But the studio recordings are certainly engaging affairs, raucous and rippling with a fevered energy that frequently threatens to explode into a brilliant, blinding frenzy – even if, sometimes, the tracks don’t really peak. Diddley Bo, the opener of Man From Another Time, is one amazing break away from glory; similarly, Cheap – the title-track of Steve’s 2004 debut – locks into a fine groove but never quite makes good on its explosive potential. Early tracks are naturally rather lower in fidelity than their bigger-budget cousins, but throughout the man at the centre is a charmer with a great story or two in him.

Twenty-one tales he doesn’t have; but few have grown tired of hearing the same old same old just yet.

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