When Seasick Steve burst onto the scene back in 2006, with a rollicking New Years Eve appearance on British TV, the bluesman couldn’t have thought how much his life would change. His popularity exploded and his blend of hobo makeshift blues forced its way into the ears of millions. Now on his 7th official album, Sonic Soul Surfer gives us a reflective feel, with Seasick using his musicianship to create something with more depth.
Steve has grown since his early releases. He wouldn’t want you to thing so though; his whole persona is that of someone stuck in the past, someone from another time, someone who’s not meant for the modern world. Like many of the greats, however, this is all a persona. Steve is in fact a very clever individual, whose music has evolved overtime, and has once again with new album Sonic Soul Surfer. We saw it happen half way through his career with more reliance on drums, and now his musical style is more varied, and the drums seems less forced than on earlier efforts. Roy’s Gang and its juttering guitar opening lead you in with its makeshift, dirty sound being the perfect accompaniment for the simple but perfectly honest beats provided by Dan Magnusson. They’ve really learned to work together for something nice here.
But where the album really shines is Steve’s use of genres of blues, which he ventures into more than ever and with more skill and dexterity than before. In Peaceful Dreams uses a folk sound to take us down to the Deep South, with the fiddle taking centre stage against a haunting tale of days gone by. The beautiful Right On Time carries on the folk theme by revealing the gentler side of the musician, and vastly improved quality of the singers vocals.
But don’t worry if all you wanna do is be enthralled and rattled along by Steve’s botched up instruments and hillbilly swagger – he’s still got you covered. Bring It On would liven up a sleeping walrus, whereas single Summertime Boy is fun and fast-paced, throwing you along against its addictive beat.
What really creates something special here is when Steve takes it down to the bare roots and performs tracks like Dog Gunna Play; stripped back, bare blues with a twinkle and a sparkle. Again Steve’s newly found skill with vocals entice the listener in, transporting you back to when blues began with lyrics of obsession and giving in: ‘I’ll be your dog, wouldn’t have it any other way’. His vocals fall and rise along with the music in a way only a bluesman can do.
Sonic Soul Surfer is a culmination of all Steve’s talents. His growth is on show here, and it’s an album straight from the heart, helped by a clear intention. If you were getting bored with the singer, this album will prove he’s once again motivated and taken his music to the next level.