Day The River Sang (2006)
|Artist: John Stewart|
|John Stewart may appreciate the rewards of eBay’s current ad campaign, which is embedding "Daydream Believer," his 1968 #1 hit for The Monkees, in a new generation’s consciousness, but it’s a misleading calling card for the singer-songwriter described as "a master wordsmith who captures the soul of America in his songs" by Billboard.
Since leaving the Kingston Trio, preceding the careers of Prine, Kristofferson, Springsteen, Earle, and the rise of the Americana movement, Stewart has written and recorded more than 50 albums of stripped down songs of everyday saints and sinners, their moments of elation and desperation, and of our country’s natural beauties and toxic political undercurrents. He’s recorded with Johnny Cash, and had his own songs recorded by Johnny’s daughter Rosanne and many others.
This latest collection of new Stewart originals affirms John’s powers as a master painter of indelible pictures in song. Using the warm leads and brushstrokes of his own guitars, his longtime rhythm section, and dabs of keyboards, harmonica and backing voices, Stewart applies a similarly understated approach to his lyrics and vocals. Now in his mid-60s, Stewart invests the opening love song, "Baby, It’s You," with a sense of relief and gratitude a younger man might lack. But the youthful gleam in his eye is unmistakable on the frisky "Amanda Won’t Dance." The pull between heart and highway is frequently felt, as in the lovely "Jasmine," on which John’s weathered tenor swoops into a sweet falsetto. One would be hard-pressed to find a more poignant elegy for the pre-Hurricane Katrina Crescent City than "New Orleans," with its heartbroken piano accompaniment and regret-filled vocals.
With their musical roots in folk, country, rock and bluegrass, John’s songs frequently encompass subjects stretching from the sky above to the mud below. The Day the River Sang includes a terse character study of the "junkies and jockeys" at "Golden Gate Fields," and the lightly jazzy "Slider," which watches a good girl go wrong. On the metaphysical end of the spectrum, the title track is a vision of paradise and peace, while "Sister Mercy" is a plea for direction in troubling times. In between are John’s tribute to his muse, "Naked Angel on a Star-Crossed Train," the propulsive tragicomedy of "Midnight Train," and a new version of "Run the Ridges," from his Trio days.
Album Notes and Credits
Notes & Personnel Info
|Personnel: John Stewart (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica); John Stewart (various instruments); John Hoke (various instruments, 12-string guitar, piano, organ, keyboards, string synthesizer, drums, percussion); Dave Batti (accordion); Kate Wallace (vocals); Henry Diltz (harmonica).|
|Liner Note Author: Jim Musselman.|
|Recording information: Dreamland Studios, Los Angeles, CA; John's Home Studio, Novato, CA; Jorgo's World Famous Music Room Of Sierra Madre, CA.|
|Photographers: John Stewart; Dave Batti; Buffy Ford Stewart.|
|Singer/songwriter John Stewart's musical career reaches back to the early '60s with the Kingston Trio, and so a new collection of his songs, presented with fairly basic arrangements, must seem like something of a homecoming. Stewart's smoky, weathered vocals (with just a touch of reverb added) brings an authentic style to "Baby, It's You," "Jasmine," and the title cut. He's joined on a number of cuts by bassist Dave Batti, percussionist John Hoke, harp player Henry Diltz, and, in one instance, the background singing of Penny Roberts, Bianca Batti, Kate Wallace, and Cina Batti. With such a simple setup, what really stands out on The Day the River Sang are the singer and the songs, one man's interpretation of his own work. This gives songs like "Sister Mercy" an intimate, revelatory feel. Overall, the work here is fairly mellow, so it's nice when upbeat songs like "Amanda Won't Dance" and "Midnight Train" mix things up a bit. The album closes with the relaxed, bluesy "Slider," complete with some nifty electric guitar riffs by Stewart. For those who appreciate Stewart's gift as a singer/songwriter, The Day the River Sang offers a new chapter in an ongoing musical saga. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.|
Producer: John Stewart; John Hoke; John Stewart; John Hoke
Engineer: John Stewart; John Hoke
Associated Artists and Works
|Release Date : 02/20/2006|
|Original Release Date : 2006|
|Catalog ID : APRCD 1093|
|Label : Appleseed Records|
|Number of Discs : 1|
|Studio/Live : Studio|
|Mono/Stereo : Stereo|
|SPAR Code : n/a|
|UPC : 00611587109323|
- "His earth-beaten vocals have inspired everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Lindsay Buckingham."
To the baby-boomer generation, John Stewart’s name is synonymous with the Kingston Trio, whose early ’60s hits like "Tom Dooley" and "Greenback Dollar" brought folk music from the coffeehouses to the concert halls, campuses and radio playlists. To the mid-’60s teenyboppers, John was the pen behind the Monkees’ #1 hit, "Daydream Believer." To rock fans in the ’70s, John was that friend of Fleetwood Mac’s who had a Top 5 single, "Gold," and a Top 10 album, "Bombs Away Dream Babies," featuring Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. In the ’80s, John was part of the "do-it-yourself" movement, recording and releasing albums for his own label. Today’s kids are chanting, "Cheer up, sleepy Jean," thanks to the new eBay ads. And throughout his solo career, now nearing four decades, John Stewart has been revered by fellow musicians and music fans as a pioneer and ongoing force in what’s become known as the Americana genre, a tougher, more rootsy tributary of the singer-songwriter movement.
Born in San Diego in 1939, John wrote his first song at the age of ten. In high school, John formed a band that played Elvis, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly covers. He shifted to folk music while he was in college, and two songs he wrote were recorded by the original lineup of the Kingston Trio. On the advice of the Trio’s manager, John formed the Cumberland Three, a Trio-like band.
When founding member Dave Guard left the Kingston Trio in 1961, John was the obvious choice as his replacement, contributing banjo, guitar, and, most importantly, his songs. During his seven-year, 16-album tenure with the group, they recorded more than two dozen Stewart originals, including "One More Town," credited by Paul Simon as the inspiration for "Feelin’ Groovy." John also performed on many of the Trio’s best remembered songs, including "Greenback Dollar" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."
John took part in the March for Freedom in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and campaigned for his friend Robert Kennedy during the latter’s mid-Sixties Senatorial campaign. In 1968, John would again join Kennedy’s campaign, this time in his tragically curtailed bid for the US Presidency.
During his final Trio days, Stewart wrote "Daydream Believer," which soon became a mammoth hit for the Monkees (as it would for Anne Murray in the late Seventies, and as it has again arisen in an eBay TV ad campaign). In 1968, John recorded his first post-Trio album, Signals Through the Glass, with singer Buffy Ford, his wife to be. His actual solo debut album – 1969’s classic California Bloodlines, recorded in Nashville at the same time, and with some of the same musicians, that Dylan was cutting his back-to-the-roots Nashville Skyline – was subsequently named one of the best albums of all time by a Rolling Stone critics’ poll.
Many more Stewart records were to follow, as were innumerable cover versions of Stewart compositions a startling assortment of singers, including Nanci Griffith, Joan Baez, Kate Wolf, Harry Belafonte, Robert Goulet, Pat Boone, the Beat Farmers, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Rosanne Cash (who scored a late-Eighties #1 country hit with his "Runaway Train").
In 1979, John returned to the charts himself with "Gold," the first of three Top 20 hits from his Bombs Away Dream Babies album. After a follow-up album failed to duplicate those successes, John founded his own label, Homecoming, in 1984 and has since released numerous albums of his own and other artists. Signed by Appleseed Recordings in 1999, John has recorded three albums for the label prior to The Day the River Sang. Still touring, still writing, still singing and recording to his own high standards and our own high hopes, he’s John Stewart, "a man who hasn’t lost his enormous faith in people and who earnestly but eloquently compresses more than four decades of dreams and regrets into his songs" (Rolling Stone).
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