THE STORY of Seasick Steve reads like an unbelievable piece of wish-fulfilment fiction.
Star rating: ****
As a child he was taught to play guitar by an old blues musician. Most of his teens and twenties were spent living rough and hopping freight trains. In 2006, at the age of 65, his début solo album earned him a show-stopping slot on Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny. He became an instant cult attraction. Nine years later, his joyous brew of bare-bones, foot-stomping swamp music is still packing ‘em in.
Tonight, when he thanked this rowdy crowd for giving him a “dream job” so late in life, his sincerity was rather touching.
A born entertainer, his atavistic boogie is proudly set in its ways. At one point he even brought a record player on stage to extol the virtues of vinyl. Musical instruments don’t usually deserve a round of applause, but cameos from his one-string bass and signature Three String Trance Wonder almost stole the show.
It’s impossible to resist the sizzling barbed wire charms of nuggets such as Summertime Boy and Barracuda ‘68. Wold rarely sings the weeping blues. This is primal, good-time party music, the very essence of juke joint rock ‘n’ roll. His drummer looks like Uncle Jesse, for heavens sake. What’s not to love?
Sure, he plays up to his Tennessee tall-tale image. He’s in on the gag, so to speak. But Seasick Steve is no novelty. He’s a benign, funky inspiration.
Dominic Waxing Lyrical
Edinburgh Blue Goose
Star rating: ****
Touring the length of the Union Canal is such a lovely, logical idea that it’s hard not to wish resurgent Edinburgh musician Dominic Harris – aka Dominic Waxing Lyrical – every success as he piled a group of friends, family and bandmates on a houseboat and set out to do just that last week. To hear him recount each stop, however, was to realise why more musicians haven’t engaged with this geographic feature. The night before was a pub in Broxburn with a rowdy wake going on downstairs, while today had taken them to Saughton Prison – it was “seven prisoners, five prison wardens, a chaplain and us,” recounted Harris.
What the inmates made of his music will remain unknown, but the home crowd in Edinburgh’s Blue Goose Country Pub, a friendly local and restaurant overlooking the Water of Leith and across from the Water of Leith Visitor Centre, were warm and enthusiastic. It’s not the kind of place which is exactly kitted out for live music, but Harris and his band – brothers Riley and Murray Briggs and Ken Buchanan, all veterans of indie-pop group Aberfeldy – had done a good job of adapting, perched atop a couple of steps and lit by pulsing rainbow disco lights.
The DIY rawness of Harris’ set, mostly drawn from last year’s first album in 18 years Woodland Casual, didn’t require perfect acoustics anyway, with the scratchy, jittery indie-punk of Colonial, Swansong’s baroque view of a drunken fistfight on the way home from the pub (“your fists are like usherettes cajoling folk into position”) and It Ain’t Over’s thunderous bassline letting loose an exciting charge into the reserved air.