Dylan Stewart “The Scarecrow Sessions” (Independent, 2019)

They used to say that Leonard Cohen wrote songs to slash your wrists to and whilst Dylan Stewart’s fourth album ‘The Scarecrow Sessions’ isn’t quite in that league, it certainly isn’t an album to blow away the blues. Dylan Stewart is renowned for writing some of his best work in the dead of night, or when he’s in the depth of grief, and it shows on this collection of twelve numbers. 

The somewhat depressing nature of these songs could be accounted for by the traumatic time Stewart was going through when he was writing them. His father, Danny Wayne Stewart had died, as had his musical mentor, Tom Skinner. He also broke up with his girlfriend around the same time, quit playing with his band The Eulogists and quit his day job, so it’s not surprising that there is a mournful quality to most songs on the album.

‘The Scarecrow Sessions’ was the last album recorded at Ryan Houck’s North Broadway Studio in Hydro just before it closed down so Stewart would be forgiven if he believed that if it wasn’t for bad luck, he would have no luck at all! As Stewart himself said, “It was songs from the hardest time of my life, really, emotionally, and I was dealing with it kind of on my own and self-destructively a little bit. And it really comes through with the music. After that, I think I just started cutting ties to everything in my life”.

There have been some discussions recently on this website about attempting to define Americana and if anyone didn’t know, the ‘The Scarecrow Sessions’ is something of an archetype. Instrumentally there’s some banjo, acoustic guitars, dobro, harmonica, pedal steel, and mandolin. Throw in some songs about southern lands, the American Civil War, churches with song titles like ‘Cherokee Purples’, ‘Major John Miles’ and ‘Jeremiah’, add Stewart’s laid-back, relaxed lo-fi vocals and you there you have Americana in a nutshell.

On Stewart’s Facebook page there a couple of comments from fans, one of which describes his voice as “very soothing” and another that says “really makes you feel relaxed” so ‘The Scarecrow Sessions’ is not an album to get up and dance to, but it is a record that gets right to the heart of Dylan Stewart, so if you want to listen to a man baring his soul at a very difficult time in his life, give it a listen.

Fourth album of dark soul baring from Oklahoma singer-songwriter
5/10

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