NEW YORK: Steven Seagal: Bluesman? – by J. Blake

Posted on 12/22/2009 by J. Blake

The world may have been shaken by the (somewhat) recent news that aging action-star Steven Seagal has been a deputy sheriff for the past 20 years, with his new reality TV series STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMAN, but did you know that he’s been a ‘bluesman’ for even longer? Probably, the craziest revelation is that he is actually not that bad!

As shown in a recent episode of his new hit series, when Seagal is not kicking ass in straight-to-DVD action flicks, or chasing down real bad guys in Louisiana, he fronts his own polished blues band, named Thunderbox. The fact of the matter is that this is something that he has been doing for awhile.

"I started out early on playing blues because those were the guys I watched and grew up with and learned from…To me, playing blues, it's like breathing…Movies are a job that keep what's going going. I couldn't live without the blues, it's a way of life more than a job." – Steven Seagal (taken from Stu Derdeyn’s interview from The Province, 05/12/06)

His first album, SONGS FROM THE CRYSTAL CAVE was released (outside of the USA) in 2004, and though I can respect the effort, it unfortunately lacks any kind of focus and just can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be. It almost seems like an experiment to see just how many styles of music he can fit on to one CD. According to Thom Jurek’s review on “There are so many styles here — from adult contemporary to soft rock, triple-A format pop tunes, rock tunes fused with Jamaican dancehall (no kidding!), softcore, nocturnal urban blues, and faux soul — that finding the album's center is difficult, to say the least.”

Thankfully, for his 2006 release MOJO PRIEST, he decided to focus on nothing but the blues. For this 14 track studio effort, Seagal dabbled in the many different styles of blues and surrounded himself with topnotch blues talent like Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Homesick James, Henry Townsend, Bo Diddley and Ruth Brown. Despite covering classic genre standards like Little Red Rooster, Dust My Broom and Hoochie Coochie Man, the brooding Martial Artist is actually at his best on originals like Alligator Ass, with its swamp-groove and gospel-style backing vocals and Dark Angel, a raunchy rock-blues groove that lyrically lays out the eight-fold path to Buddhist enlightenment.

Now before I get bombarded with emails saying things like “you don’t know what you’re talking about” or “how can you write about the blues and like a CD by Steven Seagal?” Let me be clear. MOJO PRIEST is not amazing, but it’s not horrible either. It has high production values that sometimes help, but other times (like on the Willie Dixon covers) work against the music; in that the album, at times, seems almost too polished to be “real blues”. His voice and playing-style are not incredibly impressive, but then again I’ve heard worse. As for his songwriting ability, I find it to be hit or miss. Some of his originals are decent and some them, not so much.

What else can be said? It’s not great, but I like it and I’m slightly impressed that Steven Seagal pulled off a CD that is as good as it is. As a guy that reviews CDs, I listen to a lot of stuff and I unfortunately get subjected to all kinds of recordings that I find to be sub-par. MOJO PRIEST is certainly not the worst blues album I’ve ever listened to….or even listened to this year, for that matter.

*If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy: Dave Riley & Bob Corritore

Copyright © 2009 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

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