John Stewart | The Day the River Sang

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The Day the River Sang

by John Stewart

A pioneer and master of the Americana genre, John Stewart combines lyrics about everyday people and natural beauty infused with a worldwise sense of realism and unquenchable hope.
Genre: Folk: Folk Pop
Release Date: 

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1. Baby, It's You
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3:39 album only
2. Jasmine
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3:00 album only
3. East of Denver
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3:11 album only
4. The Day the River Sang
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4:28 album only
5. Run the Ridges
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3:02 album only
6. New Orleans
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4:16 album only
7. Golden Gate Fields
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4:45 album only
8. Amanda Won't Dance
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3:23 album only
9. Sister Mercy
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3:53 album only
10. Broken Roses
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5:12 album only
11. Naked Angel on a Star-Crossed Train
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3:47 album only
12. Midnight Train
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4:18 album only
13. Slider
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4:38 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Talk about mixed blessings. 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.

Almost as atypical as “Daydream Believer” was the gloss of Stewart’s 1979 Top 5 single, “Gold,” and its Top 10 parent album, “Bombs Away Dream Babies,” both co-produced by Fleetwood Mac leader and longtime Stewart fan Lindsey Buckingham. Since leaving the Kingston Trio and writing that Monkees evergreen, preceding the careers of John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, and the rise of the Americana movement, John Stewart has written and recorded more than 50 albums of mostly 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, had his own songs recorded by Johnny’s daughter Rosanne and numerous others, but he’s still misidentified as “the guy on ‘The Daily Show’” by far too many.

“The Day the River Sang,” the latest collection of new Stewart originals, again affirms John’s credentials as one of our most overlooked painters of indelible musical pictures. Using the warm, minimal brushstrokes of his own acoustic and electric guitars, his longtime Dave Batti/John Hoke rhythm section, and occasional wisps of keyboards, harmonica and backing voices, Stewart applies a similarly effective less-is-more approach to his lyrics and vocals. Now in his mid-sixties, 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 album’s other lightly rocking ballad. The pull between heart and highway is frequently felt, particularly in the lovely “Jasmine,” on which John’s weathered tenor unexpectedly swoops into a sweet falsetto, the tongue-in-cheek “East of Denver” and the deeply road-weary “Broken Roses.” And 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 a la Tom Waits and Randy Newman, whispered vocals, and lyrics that were largely written by John’s longtime wife, soulmate and sometime singing partner, Buffy Ford Stewart.

With their musical foundations in folk, country, rock and bluegrass, John’s songs have always encompassed 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 post-time and coast time” at “Golden Gate Fields,” harking back to John’s boyhood spent working in California racetracks alongside his father, 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 naked plea for guidance in troubling times (“It seems I’ve lost directions/And I’ve always had them down.”). In between are John’s tribute to his muse, “Naked Angel on a Star-Crossed Train,” the propulsive tragicomic nightmare of “Midnight Train,” with a dig at “El Presidente,” and a new version of “Run the Ridges,” from John’s Kingston Trio days.

There’s more to John Stewart than “Daydream Believer.” Here’s his new CD. Listen and believe.

ABOUT JOHN STEWART:
To the baby-boomers of the Fifties, John Stewart’s name is synonymous with the Kingston Trio, whose early Sixties hits like “Tom Dooley” and “Greenback Dollar” brought folk music from the coffeehouses to the concert halls, campuses and radio playlists. To the mid-Sixties teenyboppers, John was the pen behind the Monkees’ #1 hit, “Daydream Believer.” To rock fans in the Seventies, John was that friend of Fleetwood Mac’s who had a Top 5 single, “Gold,” co-produced by Lindsey Buckingham, and a Top 10 album, “Bombs Away Dream Babies,” that featured Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. In the Eighties, John was an inspiration to the “do-it-yourself” movement, recording and releasing albums for his own label as well as for the major companies. 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 serious music listeners 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, “Shrunken Head Boogie,” at the age of ten. In high school, John formed a band called Johnny Stewart and the Furies that played Elvis, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly covers and recorded a now-rare single (“Rockin’ Anna”). John’s musical approach shifted to folk 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 moved north to San Francisco and formed the Cumberland Three, a Trio-like band that recorded three albums for Roulette.

When founding member Dave Guard left the Kingston Trio in 1961, John was the obvious choice as his replacement, providing banjo, guitar, on-stage jokes and, most importantly, his songs. During his seven-year, 16-album tenure with the group, the Trio recorded more than two dozen Stewart originals, including “One More Town,” later 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,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and “The Reverend Mr. Black.”

While the Trio was still riding high, John took part in the March for Freedom in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and also 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 days with the Trio, 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 by other artists. A startling assortment of singers have endorsed John’s artistry by recording his songs, including Nanci Griffith, Joan Baez, Kate Wolf, Eddy Arnold, 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,” a Top 5 single and the first of three Top 20 hits from his “Bombs Away Dream Babies” album. After a follow-up album failed to duplicate those successes, Stewart and his recording company parted ways. In 1984, John founded his own label, Homecoming, and has since released numerous albums of his own and several other artists. Signed by Appleseed Recordings in 1999, John has recorded three albums for the label prior to “The Day the River Sang.”

John has had some literal ups and downs since Appleseed issued his “Havana” CD in 2003. A longtime advocate of the US space program, providing music for a 1964 NASA public service film and writing “Armstrong” about the 1970 lunar landing, John was delighted by an invitation to entertain members of the Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center during last spring’s induction ceremonies of three new members. And, of course, eBay’s use of John’s “Daydream Believer” has provided a nice infusion of income and interest. On the downside, John is not yet free of the effects of a concussion he sustained while shooting photos at a racetrack two years ago, an accident that has left him with residual vertigo and some difficulty in remembering song lyrics. But he’s 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).


Reviews


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russ lasky

good .. still has that john stewart sound
as people get older there sound changes..from california bloodlines to now sounds have changed but the singer still has all the same messages being sent in his music..this album says what john stewart feels at this time and does a great job expressing it..

john best england

terrific ....
I recently dug out my old collection of LP,s amongst which was an old favorite, john stewart "the pheonix concerts live" circa 1974 ,i played it again and it was just as good as when i last heard it 30 odd years ago. having now got this new offering "the day the river sang " i cannot believe how good it is. john stewarts voice is superb and the production is equely good ,why havnt i been listening to him in between ? i dont know, but will remedy that now .a truly great album.Buy it now.

Don Metzler

Best release from JS in over 20 years!
I bought this for a friend. I already own a copy. This is the finest release from John Stewart since Punch the Big Guy in the early 80's. John has perfected the "old guy" voice, his lyrics are as always incisive and thought-provoking, instrumentation impeccably subtle. Thanks John!

JOHN MARPLE

Good follow up to Havana
Poetical lyrics, moving and thoughtful esp "Amanda Won't Dance" - would love to hear John & Eliza Gilkyson do some duets...Gravel and Velvet? Thank you again John from Oz Downunder

Kelly Edwards

Lonesome Cowboy Rides Again
Another great album by an underrated legend. John Stewart's The Day The River Sang is a beautiful country/folk album that will probably or should get a grammy like his last album, Havana. If you don't believe me just listen to Amanda Won't Dance.

Larry N. Houlieff

John Stewart provides a rollercoaster of emotions in his latest album.
Poignant lyics and a changing landscape gives the listener of this album a rollercoaster of emotions. I would have liked to hear the vocal mix on this album a little louder as I had trouble hearing and was forced to read the lyrics in the booklet provided. Never the less worth adding to your collection!

Brian Taylor

Buy It! You won't get it out of your head!
This is a CD of great variety and a musical delight. Its first track 'Baby It's You' is a classic Stewart jangling melody and deserves to be a hit! It is followed by 'Jasmine' whose mesmeric hook 'roses and canyons and night blooming jasmine' is bound to get to you after a play or two. Other standouts are a reworked acoustic version of the Kingston Trio number 'Run The Ridges', the tribute 'New Orleans' with its beautiful piano backing, the jazzy 'Slider', the pure crystal vocals of the Batti Sisters on 'East Of Denver', and the elegiac /keyboard cello accompanied 'Sister Mercy'. It is also great to hear the quotes from the old 50s doo wop classic 'Speedo' in the almost rockabilly styled 'Midnight Train'. But there's plenty else. You won't get it out of your head. Buy it now!!

J. clemons

Good c.d., too many ballads
Some nice songs--especially if you listen to the c.d. several times in a short period of time to acquire a positive feeling for the songs. Some songs (at least music) are retreaded. BUT most of the songs in and of themselves have Stewart's unique authenticity that makes them seem that they are a natural, organic commentary on and soul of America and its culture.