Seasick Steve ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ – Review

‘YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS’ by SEASICK STEVE album review by IAN JOHNSTON

There is probably an awful tendency to take a figure like Seasick Steve for granted. Since he emerged to prominence with his second 2006 LP, ‘Dog House Music’, the veteran former hobo Seasick Steve has consistently produced some of the most incisive and gripping white country blues music proffered up for many years. Yet his natural deftness at producing highly potent ”˜roots’ music is so intuitive and effortless, it often gets overlooked in favour of flashier, transient work. Hopefully, Seasick Steve’s latest record will reverse this trend.

His new LP, the amusingly titled ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’, featuring various customarily fearsome looking Seasick guitars and a canine on the sleeve with a suitably hangdog expression (a brief history of the 12 year old cross Labrador/ Collie Twm The Dog is outlined within the sleeve ”“ very Seasick Steve) could be his best yet.

Having been on two major labels in fairly quick succession, recording for Warner Bros for ‘I Started Out With Nothin and I Still Got Most of It Left’ (2008, which featured a successful team up with Grinderman on ”˜Just like A King’ ”“ Seasick had been a special guest at Grinderman’s London launch with Suicide in 2007) and ‘Man From Another Time’ (2009) for Warner Bros, Seasick is back on an independent, Play It Again Sam. Seasick’s ”˜Back In The Doghouse’, a furious blues detonation that could instigate another major shift of the earth’s tectonic plates, featuring Steve’s thundering ”˜3-string Trance Wonder’ guitar, Dan Magnusson on drums and occasional very special guest, former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, could be a read as a reaction to his displacement; “Well everything’s all right, For a little while, But the story of my life, Gonna wipe that smile”¦” If this is the case, this song and the roaring title track (“I might not be perfect but I’m me to the bone”), which also features John Paul Jones, should put the fear of God into those responsible. Who needs another Led Zeppelin reunion when you have gems like these?

The opening track, ”˜Treasures’, a dark, plaintive ballad is one of the great songs that Johnny Cash unfortunately never got to cover. If Cash were still alive, he undoubtedly would have. The lyric depicts Seasick, the extraordinary ”˜ordinary man’, on the street looking through barred windows with a timely reminder that material possessions, which he does not covet, are merely fleeting ”˜treasures’. ”˜What A Way To Go’ repeats the message; a man works for 25 years, looking forward to a life of ease and his pension, and then dies a month after he retires. “What was all that plannin’ about,” rhetorically asks Seasick.

The rest of ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ maintains the same high standard. The slow, feverish ”˜Burnin’ Up’ ignites the lovesick spirit of John Lee Hooker, ”˜Don’t Know Why She Love Me But She Do’ gratifyingly shakes along to Magnusson’s drums and Steve’s overdriven ”˜Cigar Box guitar’,’ ”˜Have Mercy On The Lonely’ is persuasive Delta blues, while ”˜Whiskey Ballad’, written by Steve’s son Paul Martin Wold, offers an intoxicating medicinal glass of Seasick moonshine.

‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ gives further credence to another old adage; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Seasick Steve is at the top of his game.

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  1. Nice review! I knew that changing to small label wasn’t a bad move. Can’t wait to hear the whole album. Hopefully we get a DVD later this year too…

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