Monday, January 09, 2017

Steve Walsh's dog days.


Mister Dog

Steve Walsh is one of those South African, specifically Capetonian, musicians, coming up in the 1970s, who has hustled and scuffled on the local music scene without ever achieving popular, commercial success but who still became, allegedly, legendary, at least amongst fellow musicians and perhaps the hardcore fans who’ve followed him over the ups and downs of the long career where maintaining a day job was key. I can’t see Walsh ever making a living from his music.

In the notes on the CD insert, Walsh informs us that the songs on this album were written between 1975 and 1995 but there is no indication anywhere else what the release date of the album might have been. I bought the CD, still neatly packaged in cellophane, from a charity store in June 2015.

In early 2015 Walsh went through a rough patch of treatment for cancer and surgery but made it through and is (kind of) back on the Cape Town music scene.

I do not know much of Walsh’s history, musical or otherwise, which is no doubt due to the general lack of publicity or prominence as working musician in the late ‘80s when I saw just about every band or musician who ever performed in Cape Town at the time, unless he only performed at the Barleycorn Folk Club, which I avoided like the plague.

In probably 1978 or 1979 I saw him perform under the name and style of the Steve Walsh Buddies Band at the (first of two) Woodstock rock festival at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town. My main recollection of his set was that he played a couple of Bob Marley tunes, particularly “Crazy Baldhead.”

On Mister Dog, Robin Auld, who played with Walsh in the late Seventies, and who also recorded the songs, accompanies Walsh who is the only other musician. The mood is acoustic, tuneful end mellow, with some rock, reggae and funkier influences, albeit the impact is muted because of the lack of drums or bass. Often Walsh’s hoarse voice is reminiscent of the late Joe Cocker.

Walsh complains how local musicians do not receive their due from record companies who prefer more lucrative international acts. The thing is: however worthy and replete with integrity this album is, with top quality songwriting, it is not exactly the kind or record one is going to put on endless repeat or that would pique a radio audience’s interest.   

This album is a bit of a vanity project, perhaps to give Steve Walsh some merchandise at gigs.  The reggae groove and hooks of the seventh cut, “Not Much More Than Love,” make it the standout track amongst mostly low-key mundanity.

The brief description of this album would rate it as no more than workmanlike with no particularly memorable songs; not a high-water mark of a musical legacy. 

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