Man From Another Time
(Atlantic/Ryko) Man From
Another Time finds 69-year-old American bluesman Seasick Steve admitting that his “greatest fear before I die / Is to turn into a boring old fart.” He need not worry. Seasick Steve was pals with Janis Joplin, friends with Kurt Cobain, and a stage mate of Lightnin’ Hopkins, and his agile slide-guitar playing has earned him some unlikely diehard fans. During Olympia, Washington’s, 1990s indie heyday, he recorded riot-grrrl punk act Bikini Kill and was the lead producer of Modest Mouse’s breakthrough album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing
to Think About. On this fittingly titled disc, Seasick Steve clips through a dozen tracks of taut, authentic 12-bar blues songs that recount his vagabond life spent hopping trains from one apple-picking job to another. They include “Big Green and Yeller,” a smoky ode to his newly acquired John Deere Model 60, and the work-camp ballad “Wenatchee,” whose heavy use of a three-string Fender (known as the “three-string trance wonder”) sounds like the early garage rock of the White Stripes. On “Diddley Bo,” he belts out his love of the obscure homemade instrument, essentially a two-by-four strung with broom wire that he plays with a screwdriver. The standout is a not-so-secret final track, a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with Americana darling Amy LaVere. The pair wrings lovesickness out of this well-worn country standard.