Trevor Steger puts teeth in the blues with Sawdust Man

Perhaps best known as a founder member of Babajack, Trevor Steger has released a new solo album called Sawdust Man.  The album title reflects his music and his other prodigious talent turning wood into beautiful objects including his bespoke Winebox guitars.  We can all cheer up now though, as Trevor Babajack Steger with only his guitar, harp, voice and a stompbox remind us how powerful a writer and performer he is. His earliest influences were listening to his mother sing, and the only two records in his parent’s record collection, Johnny Cash and Rory Gallagher. In the late seventies, he began his musical career by playing bass in a number of local punk bands. All of this was to change when he saw Nine Below Zero perform. That and the Gallagher record combined to set him on the road to the blues. He now apparently lives on a narrow boat, somewhere near Bath and ventures forth to share his take on delta blues mixed with a sprinkle of ‘world’ music.

It all starts with the title track, Sawdust Man. A train-track start with a Hooker-ish vocal and a harp sound, which the guitar echoes and blends with, to expand it into a true blues track of high quality. Runaway Train is shuffle come boogie with simple guitar and stompbox backing to the gravelly voice and a clever punctuation of the melody with great runs on the harp. Black Dog (no, not that one) is the first truly guitar led song, with a lovely tone from a trusty resonator. The way he keeps a bass line running on the top string gives the song a surprising depth. More clever harp phrasing throughout too. River Song has shivers running down the back within three notes as Steger plays a glorious slide intro. In my mind, it will forever be a tribute song to the delectable River Song of Doctor Who… especially with the mention of going down to the river with a child in time). A lovely mix of picking and slide makes this a real classic. Red Boots is more delicious guitar and Steger’s Hooker crossed with Dave Acari vocals fit so well. Cat Scratch Fever is next (no, not that one) is about a, probably allegorical, black cat in his house that means he can’t sleep at night. The harp and guitar playing in perfect sympathy on this lifts it, and Steger, above many of the guitar/harp/voice artists out there. Been So Long has another great guitar intro before chugging into the main riff.  Stranger in the Hall starts off a bit Vigilante Man, but when the guitar sounds like this, that is not a criticism but a compliment. My favourite by a mile, I love this track. Be prepared for more shivers as the slide weaves a wonderful spell. Something On My Mind has rapid strumming illuminating the background while his voice riffs over it and the harp cuts in between. The closing track, Went Out Walking, has his harp, literally, talking to us in the intro while his phased vocal makes it sound like it was recorded in 1930. A fascinating song with the harp and vocal: no guitar or stomping and yet your foot will still be tapping with the phrasing. Clever, very clever.

My only disappointment is that Steger is a brilliant guitarist and yet the number of solos on any of his guitars is, for me, way too low. I like the harp sound, but when it’s at the expense of my favourite instrument, it does colour my overall feelings for this great album. He also has a great blues voice in that aforementioned Hooker/Acari vein, which brings gives an enviable enigma of warmth coupled with gravel. This is an album I will keep coming back to when I want a blues experience that keeps my foot tapping along to a great sounding stomp box (congratulations to the producer for knowing how to achieve this). This is a quality album and it will replay and grow with repeated listens and is well worth seeking out.

Trevor Babajack Steger – Sawdust Man

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Sawdust Man
  2. Runaway Train
  3. Black Dog
  4. River Song
  5. Red Boots
  6. Cat Scratch Fever
  7. Been So Long
  8. Stranger in the Hall
  9. Something On My Mind
  10. Went Out Walking

All songs were written and performed by Trevor Babajack Steger (guitar, harp, stompbox)

Trevor Steger puts teeth in the blues with Sawdust Man

 

 

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