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Melonstone MLNR002

Stuart’s a well-travelled singer-songwriter-guitarist whose songs present their universal truths in reflections of, or responses to, the landscapes he inhabits or travels through. The Good Earth, his third album, is I believe even finer than its impressive predecessor, A Yard Of Ale. All tracks are self-penned, except for the traditional Come Where The Willows Are Weeping, which receives a sweeping minor-key setting perfectly in keeping with its ambiguously atmospheric romantic sentiment and dreamy sense of place. Romance also figures on Over And Over and the intentionally charming Walk With Me In The Moonlight Love. Born In A Blizzard has something of the aura of Hull where Stuart once lived, while Dead End Road Signs and Red Brick Ballads are contrasting visions of the culture of the jobless. Stuart’s talent for storytelling blossoms on standout track Baltimore (which recounts an episode in Ireland’s history) and London Pride (an earthily nostalgic account of a pub bash with mates). JJ Ride That Horse is a wistful latter-day cowboy song, while the more elemental side of nature is voiced on the haunting, spectral yet down-to-earth White Owl, Black Crow.

The consistently high quality of Stuart’s songwriting is complemented by the solid, accented strength of his singing, while his stylish guitar and Appalachian dulcimer (and very occasional keyboard) accompaniment is augmented by the wonderfully spirited fiddle playing of Carol Anderson and Jonny Hardie, with a smidgen of percussion (Davy Cattanach) and harmony vocals from Rhiannon Campbell. Verdict: Stuart’s powerful music proves well worth your investigation.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.