John Stewart,
Introduction to John Stewart
(Fuel, 2006)

This is your chance to hear two really extraordinary albums in one CD, by a visionary singer and songwriter who was ahead of his time. These are John Stewart's first two solo albums, recorded in the very early 1970s, following his departure from the Kingston Trio, the consequence of his determination to bring a fresh approach to American roots music.

In California Bloodlines and Willard, Stewart succeeded in virtually inventing a strain of modern folk music and so became a pioneer of the genre now known as or Americana. To be picky about it, it must be said that California Bloodlines (recorded in Nashville) is more perfectly realized than Willard, which suffers here and there from producer Peter Asher's unwise effort to force British-pop sounds on the very American Stewart. Even so, the songs on Willard are strong and, the occasional producer's misstep aside, still quite listenable.

Way back when, I played these two LPs down to the grooves. They still sound wonderful to my hearing, and I recommend them wholeheartedly. They're the passionate testimony of a liberal patriot, possessed of a vision of his country and its people that is both celebratory and tragic, equal parts Woody Guthrie and Sherwood Anderson. For all that has happened since these songs were recorded, they still ring true. Call it a miracle, and listen and marvel.

music review by
Jerome Clark

13 December 2014

Review first published in 2006;
reprinted by permission.

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