This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/03
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
send me an email message
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 shoppersThe cosmological "Rally Down the Night" is another illustration:
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..."
"...Rally down the night"Star in the Black Sky Shining" provides more of the same.
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..."
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.
Copyright © 1998-2015 Kevin & Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews. All rights reserved.
Ownership, copyright and title of this folk music CD review belongs to me, Kevin McCarthy. Ownership, copyright and title are not transferable or assignable to you or other parties regardless of how or if you or other parties use, copy, save, backup, store, retrieve, transmit, display, publish, modify or share the CD review in whole or in part. Please read the "Terms, Conditions and Disclaimer" section on my web site for additional information about using, quoting, or reprinting this CD review.
Send inquiries to: send me an email message.
Return to Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews home page.
To return to the last web page you visited, click the "Back" button that appears immediately below: