Bob Stewart – One Life
(VWC Records – 2000)
by John Barrett
The voice is outgoing, but the sound is intimate. There’s a studied relaxation to Bob Stewart: he sings slowly, with rich timbre and artful phrasing. He glides through “On a Clear Day”, and the band whispers sweetly. (Especially Jack Wilkins, whose tone is between Pass and Montgomery.) “Ole Devil Called Love” is the best barroom ballad: Stewart is pained, and Bobby Kaye soothes him with block chords. “Good Morning Heartache”is almost friendly, like Bob expects the feeling; the guitar hangs on top, like a bittersweet dessert. A bluesy “By Myself” becomes sleek, and the words change to “When Your Lover Has Gone”. After that he’s all smiles, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. Chip Jackson walks a mean bass, and Bob simply glides, bubbling with joy. Believe me you’ll feel the same thing.
The songs are expertly chosen, from often-heard favorites to unexpected treats. After Etta Jones, I couldn’t imagine a man doing “Go Home to Strangers” he makes it sincere, and achingly fragile. “Here’s to Life” will excite you, a philosophic ode by the under rated Artie Butler. “No complaints, no regrets/ I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.” It could be sung over-the-top, like “My Way”, but Bob is subtle: he’s sad but optimistic, like the song itself. Sadder is “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” where Wilkins comps quietly and the band glows like the first light of day. Feel that swing on “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”: Jack stretches icy-cool notes, and Bob smiles while he sings. “For the Weepers” is wonderfully sad, and “Almost Spring” a lovely night. Kaye shines warmly (it’s his composition) while Bob turns nostalgic. “Dreams are made of this/ First a look, and then a kiss.” This album is very dreamy, a sound to capture a heart probably yours.