Seasick Steve – Hubcap Music

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As the saying goes, a leopard cannot change its spots. In the case of Seasick Steve, you wouldn’t have it any other way. The legendary and much loved Californian vagrant has returned with the stomping, soul-shaking Hubcap Music, a no-frills record that romps with old school, salt of the earth blues, coalesced tenderly at times with country and gospel affections.

Courtesy of Fiction Records, Seasick Steve has been given a license to roam, a thoroughly deserved liberty for an artist of his ilk, whose music is of the heart and soul, untouched by technological fiddling and dogmatic commercialism. The album features the imposing talents of guitar virtuoso Jack White, and John Paul Jones, former bass player of the magisterial Led Zeppelin. With these musicians on hand, Hubcap Music contains a thick layering of substance and flair, complimenting the unwavering, impassioned vigour that characterises every Seasick Steve album.

In his official press release, the artist declares that Hubcap Music is “a real record – vinyl like”, cut straight from a tape without computerised touch-ups. Amusingly, the name of the record was spawned from a familiar, endearing gimmick, with some songs on the being played on a guitar made from two hubcaps and a garden hoe.

Though this could be seen as contrived, Steve’s ability to construct instruments from random objects comes from the years he spent in poverty, making do with what he had, and so his methods are genuine rather than a mere act of showmanship.

Besides, judging by the way he plays, the DIY method certainly pays off! To kick off the proceedings, the first track, “Down on the Farm”, is a table-drumming, firm blues refrain, packed with bottleneck guitar, resonant bass, and energetic drums. With Seasick Steve, what you see is what you get, and Hubcap Music bumps along in a traditional custom of 12-bar guitar licks and throaty vocalizing, with the lyrics succinct and easy to relate to. Particularly strong tracks include “Keep on Keepin’ On” and “Freedom Road”, with the former poignantly rousing, attributed by Jack White’s effortless command of his instrument.

On the flip-side, the artist shows his capacity to be sweet and tender, and there are some graceful tunes to balance out the record. On “Purple Shadows”, Steve duets with a honey-voiced woman, harmonising celestially over country tones, evoking memories of the late Gram Parsons, singing a lamentation of lost love. For the final track, “Coast Is Clear”, the record is delivered home with a fine spiritual quality, elevated by trumpets, gospel keyboard tones, and a soulful rhapsody.

This apt weighting of clout and compassion is a testament to Seasick Steve’s malleability as a musician, and there is certainly plenty of life remaining in spite of his advancing years. For those who enjoy their music straight out of the pan and onto the plate, Hubcap Music certainly hits the spot.

Release: 29th April 2013, Fiction Records

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