Havana features fourteen memorable Stewart originals that ponder modern life and materialism (“Davey on the Internet,” “Who Stole the Soul of Johnny Dreams”), mortality and existentialism (“Dogs in the Bed,” “Starman”), personal and public heroes (“I Want to Be Elvis,” “Turn of the Century [Diana],” about the late Princess of Wales), love (“Miracle Girl,” about wife and singing partner Buffy Ford Stewart, “Cowboy in the Distance”), and the mysteries of existence (“Star in the Black Sky Shining,” “Rally Down the Night”). John tackles these emotions with unquenched wonder and hard-won experience, a wry cynicism forged by reality but tempered with optimism based on faith in the individual. The one non-original composition on the CD is John’s interpretation of the standard “Lucky Old Sun,” a hit in 1949 for Frankie Laine that has since been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson and many more.
Havana (the title refers to the CD’s last song, “Waiting for Castro to Die,” expressing John’s fascination for forbidden Cuba) was produced and mixed by John, who also plays most of the instruments (guitars, banjo, bass, harmonica, keyboards, percussion). His accompanists include Buffy Stewart Ford on harmonies and percussion (her backing vocals on “Turn of the Century” make the ear hunger for the song’s chorus) and longtime sideman John Hoke on drums and percussion. Rich, bright layers of ringing guitars, propulsive rhythms (check out the rollicking “Davey on the Internet,” for example), dollops of banjo, lyrics ranging from thoughtful to playful, and John’s wise, seasoned vocals add up to another great CD from a frequently overlooked but major musical talent.
ReviewsStewart is singing more like recent Johnny Cash these days. A bit breathy, deep and a little wobbly...but true and captivating. His cover of "Lucky Old Sun" (one of my favorite songs, in fact) is slow, contemplative, and a touch sad..."Davey on the Internet" is a comment on the activities of the John Stewart Internet discussion group. "Who Stole the Soul of Johnny Dreams" is described by Stewart as being about "the cost of naivete and youthful exuberance when they catch up to us." "I Want to be Elvis" echoes the desires of generations of musicians, including the Beatles! "Turn of the Century" is a tribute to the Princess of Wales. "Miracle Girl" is a moving love song to his wife Buffy Ford Stewart...Havana is a fine addition to his catalogue, and a great place to start for the newcomer. - David Kidney, Green Man Review