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JOHN STEWART —THE LONESOME PICKER RIDES AGAIN / SUNSTORM (BGO Records)

http://www.bgo-records.com

Two LPs from 1971 and 1972, respectively gain a welcome release on one cd. Not least because Stewart was recording some the best work of his career and that is saying something.

 

It could be argued, and not without validity that his all-time best work lie in the albums California Bloodlines (1969) and Willard (1970). To say The Lonesome Picker Rides Again and Sunstorm are inferior recordings would be way off the mark, because these two albums push the former as hard as anything he recorded. Lonesome Picker Rides Again like with Sunstorm was recorded in LA, and it has a fine crop of players join him. Ranging from Russ Kunkel to Buddy Emmons, Leland Sklar, Glen D. Hardin, Fred Carter, Jr, Ron Tutt, Larry Knechtel and his younger brother Michael Stewart plus John’s wife, fellow recording act Buffy Ford (vocals) among others.

 

Stewart’s weaving of vivid storytelling, romantic imagery and ideology find this extraordinary singer-songwriter propel his craft into the lap of the listener with clarity. Among other things he talks of the make up of the world then and rare sights and what we have done to it.

His wondrous way as a storyteller see the lyrics become embedded one’s mind. The fabric of his thinking is highlighted on the lazy paced “Just An Old Love Song” and “The Road Shines Tonight”, so stark and spare is the imagery you get the impression the song was taken from a real happening. Whatever the case it sounds real! Other highlights on the record include two live songs recorded at Chuck’s Cellar in Los Altos California (1971) “Swift Lizard” and “Wolves In The Kitchen” Stewart’s music is energetic.

 

On blending helpings of nostalgia and melodic hues with progressive thinking the music and songs are never less than thought provoking. A refreshing version of one of his best know songs “Daydream Believer” (a hit for the Monkees and country act Anne Murray) coupled with “Wild Horse Road” and melancholy road song “Freeway Pleasure” ensure the standard doesn’t slip or even come close to doing so.

 

Sunstorm is a mixture of loose sound and a more progressive leaning sound. This as his music evolved, never slow to follow his heart Stewart, who was recording and releasing his own material way before others decided to forgo the commercial record labels nails the likes of “Kansas Rain”, “An Account Of Haley’s Comet” (the spoken intro has his father John S. Stewart speak of his first sighting of Haley’s Comet) and “Light Come Shine”. While with a wonderful skip to the picking country rock flavoured “Lonesome John” jumps off the page! Undoubtedly, for the country critic it is the best selection of the record (he voice has never sounded better). Just edging the impassioned “Drive Again”. Stewart’s love of travel is reflected in the song, and with a choppy rhythm and lead guitar it displays a slightly funky edge.

 

                                                Maurice Hope    

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1
Rod Picott
70 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
GC,AN,LM,SZ,TK
2
JW Roy & The Royal Family
62 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,PJ,DH
3
Steph Cameron
61 pts.
Daybreak over Jackson Street
Pheromona
ML
4
JD McPherson
54 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
AR,RK,LK
5
Sarah Morris
53 pts.
Hearts In Need Of Repair
Independent
 
6
Turnpike Troubadours
52 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
MA,GF
7
Chris Hillman
51 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
 
8
Hayward Williams
39 pts.
Pretenders
Why River Records
KG,JB,JBO
9
Joe Henry
38 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
 
10
Jim White
37 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
JJ
12
Margo Price
35 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
 
11
Mark Martyre
35 pts.
Rivers
Independent
MF
13
Mavis Staples
32 pts.
If All I Was Was Black
Anti
HO
 
Peter Oren
32 pts.
Anthropocene
Western Vinyl
RB,HB
15
Fred Wickham
29 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
 
16
Jeffrey Martin
27 pts.
One Go Around
Fluff & Gravy Records
HDB
17
Blitzen Trapper
25 pts.
Wild and Reckless
Lojinx
JDO
 
Jeff Crosby
25 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records
FCE,FC,JS
19
Dori Freeman
24 pts.
Letters Never Read
Blue Hens Music
 
 
Hardpan
24 pts.
Hardpan
Blue Rose Records
WR
21
The Deep Dark Woods
21 pts.
Yarrow
Six Shooter
JF
22
Lilly Hiatt
20 pts.
Trinity Lane
New West
TJ
 
Tom Russell
20 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
JAB
24
Eilen Jewell
19 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
MW
25
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
FS

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