Back in 2009, Seasick Steve released an album called Man From Another Time, a perfectly apt title for a record full of dirt-ridden, diesel-fueled (mostly) solo blues tunes. Since his first independently released LP in 2006, the enigmatic character has built a sonic identity around performing on junkyard, often handmade instruments while telling stories about his early years working obscure and manual jobs.
This year’s offering—named after a four-string Morris Minor guitar constructed from two hubcaps and a garden hoe—updates much of Seasick Steve’s rural ritual with modern nuances. Jack White’s influence can be felt on Hubcap Music, Steve’s second record on Third Man Records, although a number of other impressive guests including John Paul Jones and Luther Dickinson also contributed. The extra musicianship certainly creates a richer sound, but sometimes feels excessive: “The Way I Do” evokes like Danger Mouse-era Black Keys, “Coast is Clear” features gospel-style “ooh’s” and thick keys, and “Heavy Weight” layers both rhythm and lead guitars over Steve’s scat harmonies. However, when Steve’s storytelling and drone-like riffs reunite with drummer/frying-pan-percussionist Dan Magnusson’s accenting beats (like on the affecting “Hope” and “Over You”), the old familiar system runs ever so smoothly. So for better and for worse, Hubcap Music seems to announce that “the man from another time” has finally made it to the present.