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Wynn Stewart

After The Storm: The Playboy Sessions – 2003 (Audium)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Wynn Stewart

An icon of the Bakersfield sound and one of Merle Haggard's chief influences, Wynn Stewart enjoyed only sporadic chart success recording for Challenge and Capitol during the '60s. By the time of this 1976 comeback disc for the Playboy label, many thought Stewart had drank his talent to death. This disc is proof to the contrary.

Stewart turns in faithful recreations of two early hits "Big Big Love" (number 18) and his romantic classic "It's Such A Pretty World Today" (number 1, 1967), and the song which made Haggard a star, "Sing A Sad Song." The Missouri-born legend also imbues George Jones' "Season of My Heart" with heart-wrenching barroom regret. However, many original songs outshine the covers. "After The Storm" (number 8, 1976) is one of the best make up after breakup songs ever, to which Stewart applied just the right amount of poetic whimsy. "Lonely Rain" and "Just Now Thought Of You" captures the intense core of heartbreak and alienation that characterized his finest ballads.

If you can listen past the gooey '70s female chorus and 2 oddball Stewart compositions "Don't Monkey With My Widder" and "I'm Gonna Kill You,"this 12-song set vividly demonstrates the type of authentic vocal talent missing today in mainstream country.