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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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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
Independent
 
 
Chris Blevins
14 pts.
Better than Alone
Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
Poor David's Almanack
Acony Records
 
 
Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Independent
GC,RW
 
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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