Review Summary: A finished product that lives up to his caliber, but some of the emotion got lost when filtered.
There's no way anyone in the world could hate Seasick Steve. He rightfully earned musical success after decades of hard work and traveling around the world for a better life. His freedom-bound persona and humble attitude, still intact to this day, along with his custom made, improvised guitars (most recently the Morris Minor hub caps one that had a major role on Hubcap Music
) are the main reasons why Steve is such a lovely character.
He proved not to be a one trick pony when he turned his back on lo-fi recordings with 2011's You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks
. That album focused more on the production, also adding various instruments to complement the bare-bones tracks. As a result, Hubcap Music
follows this new direction further, becoming the most conventional Seasick Steve record so far. There are several guests who contribute, including Jack White on guitar ('The Way I Do') and most notably, John Paul Jones on bass, mandolin ('Over You') and Hammond organ ('Coast Is Clear'). For the most part, though, they only add elements to Steve's compositions, rarely diverting the attention from him.
's finest moments are 'Purple Shadows' and 'Coast Is Clear'. The former is a touching ballad and undoubtedly one of his best so far. The music, with the lush, lap steel leads as well as gentle guitar strumming, evokes such a soothing feeling, while Steve's calm voice is downright infectious. On the other hand, 'Coast Is Clear' sees him keeping his licks in the background, delivering his poppiest song to date. His refined voice successfully hits high notes to great effect and the vintage Hammond organ and horns backing him, show how much his compositions evolved since his first recording back in 2004. Of course, John Paul Jones is responsible for a big part of the overall sound, but he wouldn't be able to pull this off without Steve's efforts to burst out of his bubble.
Other highlights are the barn-burner 'Down On The Farm' and the slick, mid-tempo 'Self Sufficient Man', who show there's enough energy and groove left in Seasick Steve to really deliver powerful blues rock at 72 years old. Also, 'Freedom Road' again touches the respective subject found on many of his songs so far. Coming from a man who managed to surpass troubled times and fulfill this desire for freedom he longed for so many years, one can really feel the honesty in his message. It's great to see how unchanged is Steve now, still finding happiness in the smallest of things and thoughts, as evidenced on 'Hope'.
So what makes this album slightly less enticing than others before it? Well, the polished nature of Hubcap Music
kills some of the raw thrills that worked so well with Steve's life stories. In some ways, it's nice to see him deliver a finished product that lives up to his caliber, but some of the emotion got lost when filtered. The album's rockers benefit from this quality production, because the sonic layers are more audible, yet the subdued moments, with the exception of 'Purple Shadows', are a bit bland, even if Steve's lyrics are touching at times. So, Hubcap Music
is a solid effort with little to no filler, but doesn't have the charm of his previous ones.