The girls are asleep and I’m wide awake, plus I absolutely refuse to watch any of the Democratic Convention bullshit that is currently dominating the airwaves tonight so that leaves me little recourse but to delve into my new book (Moby’s memoir, ‘Porcelain‘) and a some heady vinyl instead. My listening pleasure then is another ‘Live from Third Man‘ album, this time by Seasick Steve.
I had quite the dilemma this past Wednesday in Barrie at BJ’s Records & Nostalgia (I told you I have good luck there). It seemed like they had just gotten in a whole buttload of “Live at Third Man” albums of which I really enjoy. Some I have already, and I certainly couldn’t afford all the others so, in the end, it came down to choosing between Jack Johnson and this one by Seasick Steve. Well, I don’t have enough beach jammers in my wardrobe to really appreciate Jack Johnson so I went with the Seasick Steve instead, even though I had only known of rather than actually hear, so it was a bit of gamble.
Here is what I know: Seasick Steve (born Steven Gene Wold), is an American blues musician who plays mostly personalized guitars, and sings, usually about his early life doing casual work. He has popped up at the most unusual venues, including the Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading festivals, the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival in Australia, and the Roskilde in Denmark. So the old dude definitely gets around.
When he was four years old, his parents split up. His father played boogie-woogie piano and Wold tried to learn when he was five or six, without success. At the age of eight, he was taught to play the guitar by K. C. Douglas, who worked at his grandfather’s garage, and later realized that he had been taught the blues. Wold left home at 13 to avoid abuse at the hands of his stepfather, and lived rough and on the road in Tennessee, Mississippi and elsewhere, until 1973. He would travel long distances by hopping freight trains, looking for work as a farm laborer or in other seasonal jobs, often living as a hobo. At various times, Wold worked at a carnival, as a cowboy and as a migrant worker. Wold described this time of his life by saying “Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don’t look for work, and bums are people who don’t move and don’t work. I’ve been all three”. So Jack White certainly knows how to pick interesting characters for his label.
Steve joined Third Man in the “Blue Room” (click HERE for an interesting take on the session) for a rare Stateside live appearance on October 26th, 2012. And nobody, but nobody, rocks a Diddley Bow like Seasick Steve, and Third Man captured every nuance in this direct-to-acetate recording. No edits. No overdubs. Just Steve in all his ragged glory.
Trying to describe this performance and, in fact, Steve himself is like trying to describe a full blown Category V hurricane. The dude is definitely from a different era, back when tattoos meant “look out, motherfuckers!”, and not “I’d like to read you poetry about my vegan bicycle”. And the overalls? Well, who can’t appreciate a good pair of overalls? Not this guy!
Basically, Steve is a 3 string playin’ waffle eatin’ bad ass supreme and I definitely made a smart decision as this shit is killer. Right off the hop, ‘My Donny‘ is an amazing example of Delta Blues at it’s finest. But, hold on. It suddenly evolves in this near punk rock frenzy as the drums kick and, yeah, this is your standard blues of any sort. And the rest of the first side carries pretty much like that. This old dude is very different.
The second side kicks off with a cover of Fred McDowell and Rev. Gary Lewis’ (better popularized by the Rolling Stones) ‘You Gotta Move‘ featuring some unknown female singer. ‘Last Po’ Man‘ is a return to the blues-punk hybrid and the culminates with an excellent ‘Dog House Boogie‘.
Yes, I likes me some Seasick Steve.