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Blues - Released April 14, 2017 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

It’s easy to be sucked into the Seasick Steve legend (his real name is Steve Wold). Raised in California, he left home at 14 and began life as a street kid hobo, hopping trains, traveling, working odd jobs, drifting, playing music on street corners, doing whatever it took to survive, until somehow he ended up in Norway in his sixties where he began his late-in-life recording career as a fire-breathing rustic trance blues musician famous for his searing slide work, gruff voice, and a penchant for cigar box guitars and other odd instruments. All of which is true. But there’s a bit more to the story. Wold, aside from seeming like he stepped right out of a Jack London story, has also been a session musician and recording engineer (he worked with Modest Mouse), appeared on BBC television, and even played with John Lee Hooker, so he is not a hobo savant -- he knows exactly what he’s doing. It just took him a long time to find an audience, or perhaps even to know he wanted one. His sound is rough, ragged, and stomping, a bit like North Mississippi trance blues players like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, but he doesn’t do traditional blues songs -- it just sounds like he does. There’s no doubt he understands the heart, soul, and kinetics of country blues, but he’s also a natural songwriter who has lived a few decades and seen a lot of things in the back alleys that have given him a wonderfully urgent and wise perspective on what he’s doing. He’s not a young man. He’s been around. He knows what he’s singing about. You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks, his fifth album, is his best yet, and easily his most considered and polished -- polished being a relative term here because this outing is thankfully still plenty rough and raw. There are a half dozen of Wold's signature roaring slide guitar tracks here, usually accompanied by Dan Magnusson's powerful and inspired drumming, including the delightfully romping “Don’t Know Why She Love Me But She Do,” but there are other tracks here that reveal Wold as something more than just a brilliant side-street blues player. The opening track, “Treasures,” is a thing of stark beauty as Wold looks back at what is truly worth holding in a long life, and it isn’t blues, unless one calls those old Appalachian banjo songs the blues. He sounds like Fred Neil after a two-week bender on another gem called “Whiskey Ballad,” which is more folk than it is anything else. Then he’s back to the banjo again for “Underneath a Blue and Colourless Sky,” a song that Dock Boggs would have cried over, and it’s sad and real and powerful. The set closer, “It’s a Long, Long Way,” is a pure country song, and one can almost imagine what Johnny Cash would have done with it. You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks builds on the loose and raw sound of Wold's earlier records, but it is also an extension of them, pulling in strains of folk and country and adding them to his signature trance blues sound. The result is a powerfully good record that Tom Waits is probably going to play to death if he ever gets ahold of a copy. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Blues - Released December 16, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released December 16, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released October 7, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released October 7, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released September 23, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released August 25, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released August 17, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released July 29, 2016 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released March 23, 2015 | There's A Dead Skunk 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. 2015's Sonic Soul Surfer doesn't break a lot of new ground for Seasick Steve (the artist formerly known as Steve Wold); it's dominated by butt-shaking groovers like "Roy's Gang," "Sonic Soul Boogie," and "Barracuda '68," where Steve cranks his amp and the band turns up the heat, while smoky late-night numbers like "We Be Moving" and "Your Name," and atmospheric acoustic tunes such as "In Peaceful Dreams" and "Heart Full of Scars" give the album variety and texture. When Steve hits fourth gear and picks up a good head of steam, his indefatigable stomp is a joy to behold, and he rocks blissfully hard for a man eligible for Social Security. However, Sonic Soul Surfer is an album that doesn't need to be 57-minutes long, and the final third features more than one moment where the record feels like it should coast to a close, only for another slow number to jump up and keep the show rolling. When Seasick Steve is laying out a fiery groove, Sonic Soul Surfer more than delivers the goods, but he should remember than John Lee Hooker didn't cut too many double albums in his day for a good reason -- you can only boogie for so long in one go, and when you run low on gas, it's not entertaining for anyone involved. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Blues - Released June 17, 2007 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

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Blues - Released October 8, 2006 | There's A Dead Skunk Records

Yes, they really do still make albums like this in the 21st century. Steve Wold, otherwise known as Seasick Steve, released his second album, Dog House Music in 2007, his first purely solo effort; he had previously released an album entitled Cheap several years earlier for which he shared the credit with Swedish band the Level Devils. Dog House Music is like a really old John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters album, or maybe something even less commercial as Steve strums his guitar and sings along, his voice sounding drowned in bourbon, and occasionally a song such as "Fallen off a Rock" crashes to life, literally, with the guitar no longer picking out a sorrowful blues lick but strumming wildly and the drums smashing away in the foreground played by two members of his family, HJ Wold and PM Wold. Apart from that however, the entire album is played by Steve, recorded in what sounded like one take, when he might have been sitting in a leaky shack by the Mississippi, almost every track given a short introduction almost as if to explain to a personal audience what the forthcoming song is about and why it is important. The album begins with the very short (just over one minute) track, "Yellow Dog" which sounds like it was been recorded at the bottom of a well, the acoustics are so terrible. When the final track, "I'm Gone," finishes, there is a small gap which is followed by Steve reciting a real shaggy dog story, over five minutes long, no music, just Steve rambling about being arrested and after spending six months in jail, looking for his runaway dog; this eventually runs into another sad blues song (about a dog). Not sure why anybody would want to listen to this story more than once. Even the album cover looks like it was designed and drawn by a six-year-old, but that simply adds to the unpolished and underproduced nature of the work, which is a credit, not a fault. © Sharon Mawer /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 2004 | There's A Dead Skunk Records