Seasick Steve @ Rock City (October 9 2008)

Take one ex-hobo, his model-looking son and a frenzied, hirsute Swedish drummer. Add two beat-up guitars, a diddly bo and a washboard for instrumentation. Finally, add a communal bottle of Jack Daniels, and a frequently brandished baseball bat to shut-up smart-arsed locals. These are the elements which comprise a Seasick Steve gig, an event which stands somewhere astride the realms of theatre and music.

By the time Steve takes the stage, the crowd has already been thoroughly entertained by Amy Lavere, whose voice harks back to the Grand Old Opry, but live resembles that teacher you used to fancy at school dancing with a double-bass.

Steve’s appearance generates a noise level which dips only at his command, for his duet with Lavere on the Hank Williams standard “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, and his serenading of a girl he has plucked from the crowd. Steve, in tattered vest, braces and ubiquitous John Deere cap, sits on a battered old chair before rising to walk amongst the adoring throng. His set is an hour and a half of high-energy, unfiltered blues, chastened by the apparently immovable institution that is Thursday night’s Tuned. Consequently there is much less talking than usual, though still enough to get a flavour of the man’s warmth and wit. The plastic clock so thoughtfully provided by the management is trampled under well-worn hobnail boots with little prompting. The night climaxes with a singalong exit to Dog House Boogie, the whole crowd howling in unison. As Steve depart for the final time, the experience is best summed up with the famous stoic refrain of the great man himself, “It all good.”

Aaron McGaughey


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