Album Reviews

Seasick Steve – I Started Out With Nothin’ And I’ve Still Got Most Of It Left

(Warner) UK release date: 29 September 2008

If you don’t know who Seasick Steve is, you’re now in a minority. With a year spent playing prettymuch every single festival under the sun, it’s fair to say the world has gone hobo crazy. Hell, inless than a week he plays to 5,500 people in the Royal Albert Hall – and if that doesn’t getdear ol’ Queen Vicky revolving in her tomb, nothing will.

But I Started Out With Nothing… leaves you a little cold. Cliched crutch of the hopelesslypredictable it may be, but listening to this album just isn’t the same as watching the beardedwonder give it some on stage.

In fact, there’s something vaguely uncomfortable sounding about it. It is, literally, the sound of abunch of executives (this is the first SSS album on a major label) throwing a dungareed, formerlyhomeless man with a penchant for playing instruments self-described as ‘pieces of shit’ into a fancystudio, and wondering why what comes out the other side feels a bit wrong.

The opening title track is as crystalline as a, well, crystal. Steve sounding like they’ve shavedhim, bathed him, placed him in a suit and then spent three months Pro-Tooling the gravel from hisvoice. Then, just when you’re done reeling from that shock, a harem of backing singers is parachutedin from readying this years X Factor winner’s Christmas single and the whole thing gets reallyweird.

Christ, they’ll be asking him to play guitars with six strings next. But as hard as they try, noamount of major money tomfoolery could totally cripple this dog-house bluesman. The sheer down-and-out charm of St Louis Slim – complete with explanatory section at the beginning (who knew’choke picker’ could be an artichoke picker? Who knew artichoke picking was a full time job?), andthe rollicking, sweeet-liiitle Thunderbird set things a lot more straight.

See, when they leave him alone, they strikes gold: Just Like A King invites Nick Cave over to swigbourbon on the porch and the resultant track is a delightful strum-along between twotroubadours who’ve probably seen quite a bit. Meanwhile Chiggers offers some hilariously fine advice over whatto do if you ever get attacked by a mass of evil sounding bugs (the chiggers of the title).

If you relax into it, and not expect the same experience as seeing Steve live, it’s pretty good.Honestly, you’d have to have a heart of graphite to dislike an album where one of the songs isabout his recently deceased dog. Man’s best friend passing away, leaving the owner all alone in aworld of hurt; it’s enough to make you track out to Clarksdale and set up an everything must go soulemporium at the crossroads.

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More on Seasick Steve
Seasick Steve – Sonic Soul Surfer
Seasick Steve – Hubcap Music
Interview: Seasick Steve
Seasick Steve @ Royal Festival Hall, London
Seasick Steve @ Apollo, Manchester