Friday, May 14, 2010

Seasick Steve - Dog House Music


Another example of where the musical tastes of YourZ and Mine(self) couldn't be further apart.  I mean, good on Seasick Steve for breaking through to more mainstream acclaim after years of just getting by.  He bought a tractor.  But listening to 45 minutes' worth of pretty ordinary blues music?  I'd rather clean the oven.

Let's face it, playing the blues isn't like playing Rachmaninoff.  You don't need to study for years.  I can appreciate quality blues-playing - I've seen Albert Collins live - and I'm sorry but this CD is just what I'd expect from someone who's been playing the blues most of his life.  He's good - not great.  And along with many other bluesmen, he's unintelligible.

I mean, he could be telling me the meaning of life, recounting how he performs indecent acts on hamsters, or reciting his mother's recipe for possum stew - I can't pick up more than one word in about three or four.  How anyone can enjoy this is beyond me.



Every once in a while, a genuine talented musician achieves notoriety, cutting a swathe through the multiple layers of crap and detritus coddling the music industry and reminding real music lovers what good music should sound like.  Seasick Steve is one such artist, and Dog House Music is the album that introduced him to the greater listening public.

What makes this story all the more interesting is Steve is not a young, good looking man but a homely good old boy who, like a lot of 'true' bluesmen, spent many years living hand to mouth on the road.  At the same time, he also gained the respect and friendship of some of the most famous names in music, including Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, as well as acting as mixer and producer for many indie acts including Modest Mouse.

What makes Steve different from the myriad bluesmen out there?  Well, this is a hard question to answer.  Blues is not something you can just pick up and, contra to what Mine thinks, it takes a long time to develop that elemental something that makes one act rise above the rest.  For me, Steve doesn't come from the 'woe is me' blues school, which has been done to death.  Instead, his tales of living rough on the road are so personal, you can almost feel the holes in his shoes rubbing on your feet.  Despite this, his tales are of overcoming those hardships with humour and optimism and of a life largely enjoyed.  There's a lesson in this for all of us. 


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