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Articles Home » 2013 Articles » Stewart, Ian James - 2013 Junk DNA
Stewart, Ian James - 2013 Junk DNA

ARTIST: Stewart, Ian James
LABEL: Dangerous Dog Records/Cargo Records
YEAR: 2013


LINEUP: Ian James Stewart - vocals, guitars * David Stewart, Warren Jolly - bass * Jim Drummond - drums * David 'Munch' Moore - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Junk DNA * 02 Phosphorus * 03 Big White Monkey * 04 One More Time * 05 Path Of Lightning * 06 Charlie Parker * 07 So Far So Good * 08 No Water * 09 Heaven Know * 10 Know Is Nothing * 11 If This Is Life * 12 When U Love Somebody * 13 Slow Burn Dance



It's no secret, Strangeways are one of my all-time favourite bands. It's also no secret that I was not that enthused with their 90's era output. Putting all that aside, it's fair to say that Ian Stewart remains an accomplished songwriter with an ear for a good melody and a lyric guaranteed to sway the heart. Having put my opinions back into the past, I am only too pleased to have Strangeways back as an active entity once again, and give kudos to Stewart for releasing his first solo record; one that bares his creative soul for all to see, a soul that goes way back before the corporatized 80's brand of Strangeways made the airwaves during the mid 80's. I think we'll all come to realise that the ambient and atmospheric strains wafting through 'Junk DNA' are a more comfortable fit for Ian than the Journey-esque tones of 'Native Sons' and 'Walk In The Fire', much as it pains me to say it.. lol! Keeping things in the family, brother David and current Strangeways bassist Warren Jolly provide some 4 string resistance, Jim Drummond still pounds out the drums while David 'Munch' Moore provides that ever faithful and mesmeric ivory based backdrop. They're all here except Terry Brock, and I'm sure if Tez had his way, he'd be eager to help out his Strangeways brothers.. no doubt..

The Songs
'Junk DNA' for the most part keeps to a blues/jazz structure with layers of ambience as a best friend. The title track is a coarse modern day rocker, where Stewart stretches the boundaries with some dependable riffs and intrusive solos.

'Phosphorus', at 8 and a half minutes is the longest track here, but what a song. Even Pink Floyd would be impressed. The simple piano melody creates ambient space for the other passages to come into their own. One of the loveliest tracks I've heard in awhile.

'Big White Monkey' is a slow rumble of a track, taking on the appearance of a song fit for the carnival, minus the monkey perhaps. I think the under-current of the song is a veiled swipe at America's poor track record at foreign policy and territorial invasion of other countries. Big white monkey indeed!

The melodies within 'One More Time' are virtually swimming in richness. A tune that is easy on the ear, with its shimmering guitar work (perhaps a bit of flanger, a touch of tremolo), it's a late night shadow-caster which only a good dram of whiskey is the only accompaniment required.

'Path Of Lightning' navigates a smokey and hazy blues path, though the song structure is still unbelievably simplistic and ambient. I would love a guy like Eric Johnson to do this sort of stuff.

'Charlie Parker' is a very cool slice of Americana, whimsical in parts, but engaging nonetheless. It's an ode to the jazz sax player. Think Hunter Greer's 'Tales From Stoney's Bar And Grill' as a reference point. In fact, Ian's guitar work is very reminiscent of Ken Greer (Red Rider), while his breathy vocal is tailor-made for the song.

If you're into real mellowness, then 'So Far So Good' should put your spirits into a good place. Stewart's voice is honeydew rich, it's hard not to think of vast rural expanses of mid-west America when listening to this. Not quite The Waltons, but still, this is lovely.

'No Water' is propelled along by a urgent delivery. The tempo is constant and upbeat, not so much in the way of solos, but the song is carried effortlessly.

'Heaven Knows' is just the coolest cat, sort of slinky blues, and as I'm listening to this, I'm damned if I can remember who Ian reminds me of on this one. Actually I know, it's Peter Mayer, he of PM fame. This is a deadringer of Mayer's track 'Michaelangelo' from his beautiful 1996 album 'Green Eyed Radio'.

'Know Is Nothing' features the bass-popping skills of Ian's brother David Stewart, the song itself is full of interesting twists and turns, understated in parts, overstated in others.

'If This Is Life' is a very dreamy affair, the sort of song to listen to when staring out to sea or staring up at the stars on a moonlit night.

'When U Love Somebody' is straight out of the jazz-club, the track features Robert Wyatt on lead vocals, the former Soft Machine drummer and now jazz exponent.

'Slow Burn Dance' is an aptly named track, an instrumental operating with slow grooves and tasty guitar solos, sort of like Gary Moore meets Ken Greer.

In Summary
I've had the pleasure of listening to some quite beautiful but diverse albums of late. The one thing they all have in common is the ample melody on display. Sometimes the less there is in terms of the arrangement also means the better it is, as the phrase goes.. Ian has been quoted as saying that this is the album he's always wanted to make. Without record company politics and interfering executives, I think he got his wish. Therein lies the answer to the musician's creed.. try and do it on your own terms. Simply a lush and (I say that word again unapologetically) 'ambient' affair, 'Junk DNA' is the sort of album to become best friends with.. as I have.. I think Alison Booth (from Classic Rock magazine) got it right when she said that this album should be listened to with a glass of whiskey or wine. That I would agree with 100 percent. Prost!

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