A Review of the CD
by John Stewart

by John Stewart

Copyright 2003
APR CD 1070
Appleseed Records
P.O. Box 2593
West Chester, PA 19380
ph: (610) 701-5755
http://www.appleseedrec.com/havana/ and

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/03
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Father, forgive me. For I know not well of John Stewart.

Despite my advancing years and Stewart's 40-year music career, our paths have rarely crossed. Yes, I am aware of his 1960's membership in The Kingston Trio, a number of his hit songs, and his extensive, 40-release artistic output, but most of his music simply hasn't appeared on my radar. I would use the phrase under my radar but Stewart aficionados would probably retort: over my radar.

In a way, at least in reviewing this CD, that is good. My lack of familiarity allows fresh ears to listen to and judge this release solely on its own merit.

Originally a very limited cassette release, "Havana" offers 15 songs, 14 Stewart originals and a rendition of "Lucky Old Sun."

The verdict: strong songwriting skills and a talent for weaving his words with interesting music, rhythms and instrumentation.

The provocative, seemingly stream-of-consciousness "Who Stole the Soul of Johnny Dreams" is a prime example of Stewart's talent. Partly a critique of American culture, he sings:

"Attention K Mart shoppers
Do you really need all of that crap?
Made somewhere in Thailand
No one's taking the rap
I'm holding out for yellow
Airbags in my shoes
I saw the ad from Calvin Klein
It's the kind the junkies use..."
The cosmological "Rally Down the Night" is another illustration:
"...Rally down the night
Well I still seek the shining light
Spoken of by chosen few
Privileged to the holy view
That transforms the common thieves
And shatters what a man canceives
A spider's web of lies believes
It is I who fly the pale balloon
And walks the dark side of the moon..."
"Star in the Black Sky Shining" provides more of the same.

The pleaful "Dreams of the Starman," a wish (to steal from another song title) for greater peace, love and understanding, seems an anthem quite appropriate for current times. "Cowboy in the Distance" nicely blends lovers in New York City with those in the American heartland.

Stewart's vocal range is limited. In a few of the songs, it actually is difficult to follow the words, especially since the lyrics are inexplicably missing from the liner notes. But, as a plus, his vocals match up quite well with the genre on a couple of bluesey-type numbers.

Fans of John Stewart will certainly appreciate his latest. Those in the unfamiliar camp will enjoy it if possessing an appreciation for interesting songwriting and musical backing.

Stewart on vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, banjo and harmonica, is assisted by Buffy Ford Stewart on voclas and percussion; John Hoke on drums and percussion; Noelle Ford on viola; Thano Sahnas on electric guitar and Dennis Kenmore on drums.

Track List:

All songs by John Stewart, except as noted.

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