Acoustic Blues Guitar Lesson – Seasick Steve

So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams

interpreted by Seasick Steve

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hank williams - so lonesome i could cryIsn’t that just about the saddest sound you ever heard? Seasick Steve took an old country music standard, played it low and soulful with an easy picking pattern in open D and created an absolute masterpiece. This is what it’s all about folks – nothing flashy or fancy, but simple, with style and from the heart. It’s what makes the blues, pure and simple, and all the great master knew this. The secret of Steve’s success is partly because he’s real, and partly because he’s playing the old music that really sounds as it was.

Many of us modern acoustic blues guitarists change the old picking patterns a little to much and in doing so we tend to lose the original and authentic feel. Of course, it’s good to change things a little in order to make them our own, so to speak, but often it doesn’t work for various reasons. Some classic blues guitar pieces are really tricky, either because of the dexterity required, or tricky time, or both! If we are in a hurry, and most of us are, being so enthusiastic that we want to learn all this stuff, which of course would take us several lifetimes, as Clapton once pointed out.

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When we come across this kind of picking, our natural tendency is to dumb it down so that we can handle it and play it fluently. This works up to a point, but we’ve all heard standard well-known songs completely ruined by over-simplification, to the extent that the original feeling is just gone! This is our challenge then as modern acoustic blues guitar players – trying to ‘keep it real’ and keep the old acoustic blues alive and thriving.

Seasick Steve is a great example of how it should be done. It’s understated and sincere. He took a lifetime to perfect that feel and was only discovered when he was 70-something. He never was in a hurry and her never will be.

An article from Wiki about Steve:

Seasick Steve

Steven Gene Wold (born 1940/1941)[1] commonly known as Seasick Steve, is an American blues musician. He plays mostly personalized guitars, and sings, usually about his early life doing casual work.[3]

Childhood and early life

Wold was born in Oakland, California.[4] When he was four years old, his parents split up. His father played boogie-woogie piano and Wold tried to learn when he was five or six, without success. At the age of eight, he was taught to play the guitar by K. C. Douglas, who worked at his grandfather’s garage, and later realised that he had been taught the blues.[5] Douglas wrote the song “Mercury Blues” and had played with Tommy Johnson in the early 1940s.[6] In 2000 he gave his age as 50,[7] and his surname has also been provided as “Leach.”[8]

Wold left home at 13 to avoid abuse at the hands of his stepfather, and lived rough and on the road in Tennessee, Mississippi and elsewhere, until 1973.[4][9] He would travel long distances by hopping freight trains, looking for work as a farm laborer or in other seasonal jobs, often living as a hobo.[5][10] At various times, Wold worked at a carnival, as a cowboy and as a migrant worker. Wold described this time of his life by saying “Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don’t look for work, and bums are people who don’t move and don’t work. I’ve been all three.”[11]

Adult life and early musical career

In the 1960s, Wold started touring and performing with fellow blues musicians, and had friends in the music scene including Joni Mitchell.[9] He spent time living in San Francisco.[12] Since then, he has worked, on and off, as a session musician and studio engineer. In the late 1980s, while living in Olympia, near Seattle, he worked with manyindie label artists.[9] In the 1990s he continued to work as a recording engineer and producer, producing several releases by Modest Mouse[13] including their 1996 debut albumThis Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About.

At one time, living in Paris, Wold made his living busking, mostly on the metro.[14] After moving to Norway in 2001, Wold released his first album, entitled Cheap, recorded withThe Level Devils as his rhythm section, with Jo Husmo on stand-up bass and Kai Christoffersen on drums. His debut solo album, Dog House Music was released by Bronzerat Records on November 26, 2006, after he was championed by an old friend, Joe Cushley, DJ on the Balling The Jack blues show on London radio station Resonance FM.

Breakthrough and subsequent career

Wold performing in 2009 at the Hard Rock Calling festival in London’s Hyde Park

Wold made his first UK television appearance on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny BBC TV show on New Year’s Eve 2006. He performed a live rendition of “Dog House Boogie” on the “Three String Trance Wonder” and the “Mississippi Drum Machine”. After that show his popularity exploded in Britain, and he commented “I can’t believe it, all of the sudden I’m like the cat’s meow!”[10]

He was well received in the UK, winning the 2007 MOJO Award for Best Breakthrough Act and going on to appear at major UK festivals such as Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury. In 2007 he played more UK festivals than any other artist.

Wold toured early in 2008, playing in various venues and festivals in the UK. He was joined on stage by drummer Dan Magnusson. KT Tunstall also dueted with Wold at the London Astoria in January 2008.[15] Wold also played many other festivals throughout the world in 2008, including Fuji Rock in Japan, East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival in Australia, also in April 2008,[16] and Roskilde in Denmark.[17]

Wold’s major-label debut, I Started Out with Nothin and I Still Got Most of It Left was recorded with Dan Magnusson on drums, was released by Warner Music on September 29, 2008, and features Ruby Turner and Nick Cave’s Grinderman.[18]

He has toured the UK extensively since 2007 being supported by Duke Garwood, Gemma Ray, The Sugars, Billie the Vision and the Dancers in January 2008, Amy LaVere in October 2008, Melody Nelson at the Brighton Dome on 7 October, and Joe Gideon & The Shark in January 2009. His tours in October 2008 and January 2009 were all sold out and included performances at the Royal Albert Hall, the Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, the Grand Opera House in Belfast, the Apollo in Manchester, the City Hall in Newcastle and the London Hammersmith Apollo.[19][20][21]

In 2009, Wold was nominated for a Brit Award in the category of International Solo Male Artist,[22] That same year, BBC Four broadcast a documentary of Wold visiting the southern USA entitled Seasick Steve: Bringing It All Back Home.[23] On January 21, Wold hosted “Folk America: Hollerers, Stompers and Old Time Ramblers” at the Barbican in London, a show that was also televised and shown with the documentary on BBC Four as part of a series tracing American roots music.[24][25]

In an interview with an Australian magazine, Wold attributed much of his unlikely success to his cheap and weather-beaten guitar, “The Trance Wonder” and reveals the guitar’s mojo might come from supernatural sources.

“I got it from Sherman, who is a friend of mine down in Mississippi, who had bought it down at a Goodwill store. When we were down there last time he says to me, ‘I didn’t tell you when you bought it off me, but that guitar used to be haunted’. I say, ‘What are you talking about, Sherman?’. He says, ‘There’s 50 solid citizens here inComo who’ll tell you this guitar is haunted. It’s the darnedest thing – we’d leave it over in the potato barn and we’d come back in and it would be moved. You’d put it down somewhere and the next morning you’d come back and it would have moved. When you took that guitar the ghost in the barn left’. He told me this not very long ago and I said to him, ‘Sherman! Why didn’t you tell me this before?’ and he said, ‘Well the ghost was gone – I didn’t want it around here no more!'”[26]

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