Seasick Steve, Live in London

At this rate, he’s going to need a bigger dog house.

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Trippy trio My Baby are an unknown quantity when they take the stage. But the group – barefoot vocalist and guitarist Cato van Dyck, her drumming brother Joost and guitarist Daniel Johnston – convert the crowd with their swampy, spaced-out set. With no bass player, Joost fills up the low end by beating out the time on his floor tom and gong drum. It works too, giving the songs a deep, rumbling undercurrent.

There are touches of bluegrass, country and Led Zeppelin in their blues and Cato van Dyck has a hell of a set of pipes, using her voice as an instrument alongside the guitars. Expect this baby to outgrow support slots.

“Well, let’s kick it then,” says Seasick Steve to a roar of approval. He’s joined tonight by regular partner in crime Dan Magnusson on the drums and on occasion by the multi-talented Georgina Leach on fiddle, keys and bass. But first Steve and Magnusson get the house rocking with the back-to-back stomps of Thunderbird and Bring It On.

Seasick Steve has to stand as one of the most distinctive artists in blues. It’s not just that he has lived a life of remarkable lows and highs, providing so much experience to craft into songs, but how many people play Hammersmith wielding a guitar they made out of a washboard? Both Steve and Magnusson take regular swigs of red wine, and spirits, like blood alcohol levels, rise quickly.

“Thank you for giving me this great job, y’all,” says Steve before the country blues of Right On Time. The moody and menacing Swamp Dog is introduced as “some hillbilly shit now,” and before Baby Please Don’t Go, Steve brings out a record player and puts on a copy of his new album. If anyone else tried this, they’d surely lose the audience, but Steve couldn’t shake this crowd if he tried.

For a guy who radiates such bonhomie, Steve is at his most riveting when tackling dark subjects, and Leach’s violin weaves an ominous atmosphere over the mean bluegrass of In Peaceful Dreams. Proving that Steve isn’t the only one who can improvise instruments, Prospect Lane sees Magnusson beating out the train rhythm on a frying pan. For Walkin’ Man Steve does his trademark routine of singing it to a young woman from the audience, although halfway through when he tells her, “This is the romantic part,” and she doesn’t hear him, he yells, “This is the romantic part,” and cracks up.

The crowd is treated to three encores, a heartfelt Gentle On My Mind, which Steve calls “the greatest hobo song ever written,” a blasting Dog House Boogie and finally Silver Dagger.

He may have been late coming to fame, but Seasick Steve is on killer form tonight. Like the red wine he imbibes so enthusiastically, he’s only getting better with age./o:p

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.