Despite all the time Dave Stewart has spent hanging out with Mick Jagger, and a recent stint in Nashville, the opening riffs of “So Long Ago” (the first track on The Blackbird Diaries) pays more homage to Keith Richards than Mick Jagger.
But it’s only a glimmer, as by the second track, the record quickly finds its groove. And what a groove it is – in the liner notes, Stewart makes light of his ADD telling us that he wanted to make a record that was “A little Dylanesque meets Leonard Cohen, meets Tom Petty, meets Lou Reed, meets Johnny Cash sounding kinda thing with some Beatlesque chords and melodies thrown in.” ADD maybe, ambitious definitely.
Each one of the tunes tell a story, some perhaps even a little autobiographical. Most intriguing is when Stewart makes an overture to Stevie Nicks in “Stevie Baby,” where he sings, “I’ve got a lot to say to you, I hope we’ll get to see it all come true.” Nicks then co writes the next track, “Cheaper Than Free” where the two sing a duet together. Could this be the next supergroup?
Unlike so many other artists that have tried to mix one musical style too many (almost always with disastrous results) Stewart hits his stride right away and pulls it together brilliantly in The Blackbird Diaries with his silky smooth vocal delivery and a band of great musicians, all well known local studio guys from the Nashville scene. This record transitions easily from it’s classic Stones – like beginning, in and out of a straight ahead country vibe, with bits of R&B, gospel and even a few lost chords from Stewart’s early Eurythmic days. All with a heavy dose of bluesy keyboards and jangly guitar – so on many levels, mission accomplished.
For a record supposedly put together in five days, The Blackbird Diaries is remarkably cohesive, proving that Stewart has penned some great songs to go along with his musical sensibilities. Though many records produced in Nashville are over compressed affairs, filled with errors corrected via ProTools, this one sounds clean and almost analog like in its delivery.
Photo courtesy Kristin Burns