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Seasick Steve - You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

A straightforward, no frills country-blues album.

As the title openly declares, ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks;’ Seasick Steve’s fifth album is exactly what listeners have come to expect from the seasoned storyteller. This is a straightforward, no frills country-blues album. It makes no attempt at major sonic reinvention, but rather continues onward in steadily chronicling one man’s unconventional journey through life. The major challenge with a release of this conventional nature is that its success is judged against the initial speed and circumstance with which Steve rose to fame.

When Seasick Steve’s 2006 performance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny broke open the fandom floodgates listeners swarmed to his Delta-influenced sound as if it defined the blues genre. Steve’s refreshingly simplistic approach to songwriting, fervent delivery, and incredible back-story perfectly packaged him as musical hero. He exploded onto the British music scene and over the course of the next four years sold out The Royal Albert Hall, played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, and was nominated for two Brit awards. Therefore, when it comes time to measure up Seasick Steve’s latest studio release against his past accolades the album seems to fall drastically short of being a described as a success. However, this should not leave ‘You Can’t Teach…’ to be left by the wayside. This is a fine album that has some good things going for it.

One of the greatest strengths is the level of power Steve achieves with his gentler folk-inspired songs. The driving force on past records has been largely defined by the romping overdriven blues licks Steve squeezed out of ramshackle guitars, as seen with festival favorites like ‘Dog House Boogie’ and ‘That’s All.’ Whereas on ‘You Can’t Teach…’ Steve leads with subtler tones that examine topics of ageing and the ephemeral nature of success. The restrained album opener ‘Treasures’ and twangy folk plucker ‘Underneath A Blue and Cloudless Sky’ most clearly encapsulate this redirected potency. However, the album is not void of Steve’s distinctive Americana-inspired foot stompers. The John Paul Jones-backed title track and vibrant guitar lick of ‘Don’t Know Why She Loves Me But She Do’ are surefire crowd pleasures that will standout at summer tour dates.

‘You Can’t Teach…’ may have the novelty wearing thin for some, but what cannot be ignored is Seasick Steve’s honest aim to share his love of the blues. For better or for worse, you get the feeling that he would be churning out the same throwback tunes despite his monumental success. This truthful sentiment is perfectly summarised in the Cash-like album closer, ‘It’s A Long Way,’ when Steve sings: ‘Thanks for taking time to listen to an old man / Your time is a valuable thing / And I ain’t trying to preach, I am just passing by / And I hope you like the song that I sing.”

This is not the strongest Seasick Steve release to date it is still easy to find enjoyment in the simple backwoods charm of this charismatic album.

Tags: Seasick Steve, Reviews, Album Reviews

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