There have been some recent journalistic doubting of the authenticity of Seasick Steve’s persona and the stories of his life experiences. Anyone not convinced of his right to play the blues need only witness the man live in concert where his music rightfully and righteously sets the record straight.
The Snowdroppers were one of those little known support acts that impresses and leaves a lasting impression on you. They have the look down pat with two bearded and snappily attired guitarists, a long haired and stomping drummer and frontman Johnny Wishbone who looks like a good polite choirboy until he opens his mouth and sings and howls the blues between some searing harmonica and frantic banjo playing. Your perception then switches to a mutant Matt Damon meets Dexter. The Snowdroppers have a magical mix of the aforementioned blues, rockabilly and swaggering rock – all delivered with precision and murderous intent. They have a debut album out… Buy it, I did.
A shuffling figure with a beat-up guitar appeared out of the shadows and there was that magical moment before widespread recognition ignited the applause. With a well-worn grin Steve lumbered to his position on a drum riser and launched straight into his raw and roughshod blues. Thunderbird began with the trademark quip – “If you’re gonna sing a song about drinking wine… you should drink some wine”, before taking a few healthy swigs of his drummer’s bottle. That set the scene for a 90 minute set of Jack Daniels gulps, some hilarious and moving stories and some downright dirty guitar playing.
Steve shifted between his one string Diddly-Bo, a cheap pawn shop electric and some battered acoustics. All sounded well-worn and perfectly complemented his autobiographical songs of love, traveling and rural life. Such is his ability to extract a story from any subject he even sung a tribute to his John Deere tractor.
For Walking Man Steve chose two lucky women from the audience to sit with him on stage as he serenaded them as if he was on the porch strumming to his lady. The audience interaction was key to the brilliance of Steve as he paused mid song to simply and brutally nullify talkers in the crowd and early into his set he offered money back to any critics who weren’t digging the show and suggested they leave if they were contemplating a negative review.
Chiggers showed the humorous side of the bluesman with his cautionary and instructional tale of southern USA bugs. His humour shone through a genre that isn’t usually big on laughs. It is something that Steve has obviously realised is a part of his performance that works and he balanced it perfectly.
The new and more groove-based album Man From Another Time featured heavily with the title track and Never Go West particular standouts. Steve has evolved his sound with his current drummer to conjure up a bigger and harder rhythms that bring to mind anything from ZZ Top to early Ben Harper.
Offsetting the smiles are songs like Things Go Up where he led a full Metro sing-a-long that rang on as he left the stage before the encore. Being able to carry a large club venue with often intimate music and only one drummer as accompaniment was an impressive thing. Returning for the encore Steve lifted the tempo with a boogie that changed gears and ended on another audience chorus of howling dogs and Steve gleefully banging a chair into the stage. It showed that the man can make music out of anything and create a communal live atmosphere that is irresistible. A truly reaffirming musical start to 2010.
Reviewed for The Dwarf