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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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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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