‘Seasick’ Steve Wold has lived it all and isn’t afraid to share it. Following a string of albums and a relentless touring schedule that has seen him create a formidable following from nothing in his seventh decade. Now 70, Wold delivers a fantastic album in You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks.
There’s two sides to Seasick Steve’s music. His rockin’ blues boogies have had festival crowds warmed up, but it’s his soft balladry that packs a punch and will win you over. You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks kicks off with the latter with Treasures; a sparse ballad that seems to live in the mountains of Southern America’s coal country. From there it’s into the title track and a run of upbeat tracks that fit that relatively simplistic mould of blues rock that Wold has made his own. Any charge of repetition of his previous albums can easily be dismissed with an utterance of the album’s title. True Steve has done much of this before, but he knows it.
It’s these tracks of been-there-done-that that don’t necessarily add to the weight of the album, but they sure do make some of the heartfelt moments of tracks like Underneath A Blue And Cloudless Sky feel all the more special: “Take each other for better or worse / I love you so much it hurts / I’ll be there when your hair turns grey”.
Whiskey Ballad sees Steve join with son Paul Martin Wold for a track the latter penned at age 15. Of this Steve says: “I’m not exactly sure that reflects so great on my parenting skills, but it does say something about my ability to pass on a taste for moonshine.” The upbeat ode to moonshine is one of the more unique tracks Wold has put to record, as he beckons the listener: “It’ll wash away your sorrows / Soak up your concern”, he sings, but not brushing past the abligatory fine print: “Only problem’s when you wake up / Not a single table’s turned”.
Channeling the late great Johnny Cash in the closing track It’s A Long Long Way, Seasick Steve delivers the finest moment of the album; a superbly crafted gospel proclamation of a life lived; sparse bluegrass backing giving way to the Lyndhurst Rabble Choir for an almighty chorus. “Thanks for taking time / to listen to an old man / Your time is a vaulable thing” sings Wold in the closing moments. “I ain’t trying to preach / I’m only passing by / And I hope you like the song that I sing”.
It might be true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; but with the arsenal of tricks Seasick Steve has collected and perfected over the years, he’s one dog that just needs to keep sharing this with the world.