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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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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
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New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
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41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
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41 pts.
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HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
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BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
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Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
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Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
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RM
25
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32 pts.
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AL
 
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32 pts.
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