Steve Wold’s story would make a great book. Born in post-war San Francisco, he ran away from home at 13, busked from 16, split much of his life between jail and sleeping under bridges before he moved to Norway, married a waitress, had a heart attack, recovered and, a couple of years ago, won the Mojo Breakthrough award well into his 60s. Now, I Started Out With Nothin’… sees him make the move onto a major label. Considering how he recorded his previous album, Dog House Music, in a kitchen using a knackered old 3-string guitar, one wonders how well his unpolished American hobo blues will translate having been recorded in a fancy English studio owned by one of the dudes out of The Darkness.
Thankfully, such slick surroundings didn’t affect his rough charm; and this is very much the same old Seasick Steve. He tells yarns, growls like Tom Waits and busks away on buzzy guitars. Okay, so a few showbiz mates turn up, but they all make valuable contributions. Happy Man features KT Tunstall on guitar and Ruby Turner’s soulful voice. Awesomely, Nick Cave and Grinderman show up on the Just Like a King, with Cave offering a typically menacing, witty vocal turn.
Such is the quality of I Started Out With Nothin’… that it proves Wold isn’t just appealing because of his intriguing back-story or through the novelty, these days, of him playing homemade, beat-up old guitars, but, quite simply, because he writes fantastic tunes and oozes personality.