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Each month, Randomville profiles an artist that Third Man Records provides us. For May, we’re profiling Seasick Steve.

Listening to Seasick Steve, née Steve Gene Wold, there’s no indication that the guy is 70 years old. His voice is rich and full – if not a bit raspy – and his guitar sound is gnarly and rough around the edges. The only indication, really, is what he’s singing about. He talks a lot about himself, but that’s because he’s been places.
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Wold left home at age 13, making his way through Tennessee and Mississippi, hopping freight trains and doing odd labor where he could find it. In the 60s, he started performing in earnest, sharing the stage with the likes of Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell, until the 80s, when he found himself in Seattle, where he befriended a scraggly-haired guy named Kurt. He also helped Modest Mouse produce their debut album.

Seasick Steve didn’t release his own record until 2001, when he put out Cheap, alongside Jo Husmo on bass and Kai Christofferson on drums, also known as the Level Devils. In 2006, Wold released his first solo album, Dog House Music, and he would soon explode onto the UK music scene. His 2008 release,  I Started Out with Nothin and I Still Got Most of It Left, peaked the charts at number nine, while its follow up hit number four when all was said and done.

eatin microphones.. better than grits. 

Wold’s music is largely a solo affair – he takes care of chords and melody on his guitar and lays down the drums using foot percussion. His style is marked by a fuzzy guitar with a penchant for harder rock ‘n roll and the blues, and his drumming heavily emphasizes downbeats. Sound familiar? It’s not surprising that Steve’s recent US release has been put out on Third Man Records. He and Jack White sound more than a little similar, though Wold is more road-worn and musically not quite as famous.

The two performed together at SXSW this year in a surprise parking lot show. Wold was an interesting juxtaposition to the nervous-looking guys with their iPhones out, but that didn’t stop him from wowing the crowd with his trademark three-string guitar. His percussion is usually provided by the Mississippi Drum Machine, which when stomped on creates a sound like a bass drum.

3-string trance guitar
These days, it’s hard to imagine Seasick Steve taking public transportation, let alone hopping boxcars and doing carnie work. That doesn’t undermine the streak of authenticity that makes his music so appealing, though. For a guy who plays with a three-string guitar and stomps on a box for percussion, he does alright. Like he says on his most recent album: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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