Al Stewart at the Cheese and Grain

DIRECT from the London Palladium, said the man, as Scottish-born Bournemouth-raised California resident Al Stewart took to the stage of the Cheese and Grain in Frome at the end of his 2017 tour.

Here in the UK, it has always been the first, intimate, albums that are best loved, but his success in America came later.  On this tour he either played Year of the Cat, his biggest hit, in its entirety, or, as in Frome,  the Bedsitter Images collection.

Accompanied by the extraordinarily talented American guitarist, singer and songwriter Dave Nachmanoff, and his old friend, guitar maestro and Cornish resident Tim Renwick, this was a journey through old and newer songs delighting the packed audience.  One woman leaving the venue said “I’d never heard of him before. It was much better than I expected.” …  I love listening to exit conversations!

I’m with Al and his choice of Old Admir­als as the highlight of the evening. A request for In Brooklyn opened up the opportunity of recounting his Leonard Cohen story. Al’s song, released on vinyl in 1969 (sic) with its line “down on my knees in Brooklyn” not indicating prayer, predates Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel by some five years.  Inspiration, perhaps?

Performing in a voice hardly altered over the years, the 71 year old Al Stewart is yet more proof that his was a golden generation of folk singers and songwriters, and his minutely researched and clever words are as entrancing today as ever.

For my part, I’d have liked to hear Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres again, but maybe next time.


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