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.
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