posted on May 14, 2008 03:03
A review of the album Dog House Music by Seasick Steve
Review Snapshot: The roughly recorded Dog House Music is a refreshing change from contemporary studio production. Its raw sounds are soaked in mud, sweat and clothed in hobo lyrics that grip you tightly with their simplicity.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
There's something cuddly about Seasick Steve.
Complete with fluffy white beard, baseball cap and worn dungarees, Seasick could easily be Santa disguised as a hobo. The lyrics on his first solo album, Dog House Music, betray Seasick's rough wandering lifestyle though - one spent living in over fifty houses worldwide as well as on the streets, beating out blues on his personalised guitar, the 'Three Stringed Tranz Wonder.'
The stomping, rootsy simplicity of Seasick Steve has attracted attention across a variety of media. There has not been a more passionate blues act to recently be covered in magazines, most of them generally associated with rock or indie. Seasick won the MOJO Award for Best Breakthrough Artist, has been covered in Hot Press and NME, and also appeared on RTE's Other Voices.
Dog House Music is a sliding, bustling blues affair with tracks that are raw, rough and caked in mud. Each song is ragged around the edges, from the howling and growling in 'Dog House Boogie' to the lazy drawling guitar on 'Shirley Lou.' The crude production on the album as well as its simple artwork reflect Seasick's hobo lifestyle.
The best thing about the album is that it captures the kind of live, street setting you only get in summertime with a busker and his miniature amp. Seasick combines his singing with chatting, mumbling, jamming, tapping and strumming. The first track 'Yellow Dog' hits you with deep, penetrating riffs and lasts just sixty seconds long. Just before the second track there's a short sniff and then we hear Seasick's amp being plugged in. The harsh rawness of the album, including coughs, laughs, cigarettes being lit, phone-calls and tributes, really brings you in tune with Seasick's life as a bluesman and a hobo.
His lyrics are often autobiographical and run on from the spoken stories that are dotted throughout the album: 'All my life I been in the dog house... that's just the way the dice rolls' (Dog House Boogie).
Though some of Seasick's tracks contain the self-pitying, sentimental element that is usually associated with blues, he manages to bring us closer to him with a touch of light humour and irony. The real stand-out track for me is 'Cut My Wings', played on a customised three string guitar that Seasick calls 'The Three Stringed Tranz Wonder.' Seasick got a positive response to his performance of this on the Jools Holland Show. Customised instruments are a quirk of his - on 'Save Me' he plays what he calls a 'One String Diddly Bo,' which sounds like a bell being bounced on a trampoline.
This album made me wish I was sitting on a rocking chair, wrinkling my brow in the scorching heat, listening to some crickets singing and chewing on a long bit of straw. Seasick is an honest guitarist, storyteller and songwriter whose simple truths resonate from beginning to end in Dog House Music.
To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.