Written, produced and recorded in his front room, Sonic Soul Surfer is the 7th studio album from Seasick Steve. Seasick Steve is sort of a do-it-yourself bluesman, from building his own instruments to the way he records his music, it is always on his terms. This DIY ethos is so reminiscent of the early punk scene that when I listen to his music I sometimes feel that what he is truly providing is Punk Rock Blues. Mostly a one man show, Seasick Steve was joined on this album by longtime drummer Dan Magnusson. According to Steve “The whole record is mostly me and Dan sitting there drinking and playing, there ain’t a whole lot of producing going on! But I know what I’m doing and I know what I want.”
“Summertime Boy” celebrates the famed California sunshine and features Luther Dickinson on jaw harp and is very upbeat, whereas “Barracuda ’68” delivers the more blues-toned chugging locomotive riffs. “Roy’s Gang” gives us another uptempo that sings the joys of being out on the road playing shows, all while Steve promises to put on the best show he can as his way of thanking those that come out to see him. “Sonic Soul Boogie” is electric blues all the way and gets your entire body moving, which is in contrast to “Swamp Dog” which is sludgy and slow moving, much like a deep south lazy river. The country vibed love song “Right On Time” lays somewhere between the two aforementioned polar opposites, while “We Be Moving” provides a glimpse into the nomadic/gypsy lifestyle, something that in today’s economic climate many will relate to as he sings of living in 60 houses in 32 years, and that’s him doing the best he could, but that one day he may settle down but most likely in death.
The songs on this album are really full sounding and it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that most of this album is just two guys playing the music they love. Hell, Steve may not have even used a guitar with all of it’s strings on some of these tracks as I’ve watched in awe of him playing a guitar with only two strings on it and sounding fantastic. If you want to be truly amazed at the sound that Steve and Dan can provide with the barest of materials, watch any of their live performances.
What Sonic Soul Surfer delivers is the sometimes lost art of storytelling. While listening to this album you feel you are being taken on a journey across America’s back roads. Full of great foot stomping and repeating blues riffs and blazing slide guitar, you won’t find another artist like Seasick Steve, who weaves together rock, country and folk into his own blend of Hobo Rock. From lovelorn balladry to rock boogie numbers, this is just an overall fun, celebration of life type album, and while Seasick Steve may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he is surely your fiery shot of Kentucky Bourbon!