Three years after becoming an unlikely poster-boy for hobo pensioner blues, Steven Gene Wold returns to his indie roots on this ragged-trousered album.
Wold’s street-corner style remains as gnarly as ever, despite the odd superstar guest – Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones plays bass on a handful of clattery electric numbers, including the title track. It also makes sense that the US release is going through Jack White’s Third Man label, since Wold’s interplay with drummer Dan Magnusson catches some of the amplified rawness of the White Stripes.
But strip away the romantic, Kerouac-style, Chaplin-esque mythology and his snaggle-toothed busker-blues schtick feels woefully low on bite or originality. The excellent opening and closing tracks, Treasures and It’s a Long Long Way, offer teasing hints of autumnal Johnny Cash or low-voltage Springsteen.
A few more of these gravel-voiced reflections might rebrand Wold from his current agreeably hokey showman to serious songwriter. But maybe he is happy in his metaphorical gutter, acting the post-modern tramp for a complicit media audience.