Seasick Steve

Sonic Soul Surfer

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John Lee Hooker built a long, rich career out of writing the same song over and over again for close to 50 years. That's not to say Hooker wasn't a great songwriter, as he most certainly was, but for him the most important thing wasn't the melody or the lyrics, but the boogie, the ceaseless forward rhythm that drove his music with an unholy force and was the foundation of nearly all his great songs. Seasick Steve is no John Lee Hooker, but he does share Hooker's true devotion to the deep and sinewy groove, an element that's run strong through Steve's music since he belatedly launched his recording career in 2006, and his albums have been cut from similar musical cloth, with the Seasick One wailing hard on a buzzy slide guitar while his rhythm section stomps behind him like the beat owes them money. 2015's Sonic Soul Surfer doesn't break a lot of new ground for Seasick Steve (the artist formerly known as Steve Wold); it's dominated by butt-shaking groovers like "Roy's Gang," "Sonic Soul Boogie," and "Barracuda '68," where Steve cranks his amp and the band turns up the heat, while smoky late-night numbers like "We Be Moving" and "Your Name," and atmospheric acoustic tunes such as "In Peaceful Dreams" and "Heart Full of Scars" give the album variety and texture. When Steve hits fourth gear and picks up a good head of steam, his indefatigable stomp is a joy to behold, and he rocks blissfully hard for a man eligible for Social Security. However, Sonic Soul Surfer is an album that doesn't need to be 57-minutes long, and the final third features more than one moment where the record feels like it should coast to a close, only for another slow number to jump up and keep the show rolling. When Seasick Steve is laying out a fiery groove, Sonic Soul Surfer more than delivers the goods, but he should remember than John Lee Hooker didn't cut too many double albums in his day for a good reason -- you can only boogie for so long in one go, and when you run low on gas, it's not entertaining for anyone involved.

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