Stewart Eastham – Dancers in the Mansion
Album Review of Stewart Eastham: Dancers in the Mansion
It’s always fun to stumble across a talented, old-fashioned country dancehall-style crooner. That’s the essence of Stewart Eastham, though he is capable of performing the whole breadth of styles encompassed by such a description and subtly incorporates some external influences while he’s at it. As a result, his latest collection, the 15-song Dancers in the Mansion, is a welcome listen; a fresh adaptation of a comfortable old musical friend.
Stewart’s music swings, and his voice is medium-deep but comes across with the power of the deepest country voices. I’m not comparing him to Kenny Rogers, but some of this album is stylistically similar; Stewart could share a stage with The Gambler in Kenny’s heyday. The rest is reminiscent of old-school, slide guitar twang-driven, Opry-ready tunes. All the while, though, Stewart maintains a fresher, more modern edge to his vocals. The result is a record that should appeal to traditionalists while also drawing in many newer-country fans.
Stewart does show off some variety over the course of the album. The disc opens with “In the Morning,” a side-to-side sway-inducing number that’s a bit of California country meets jazzy Americana. Occasionally during “Windshield” the music recalls for me the Eagles’ “Desperado,” perhaps “twanged-up” a bit, and it’s delivered in a way I could envision Garth Brooks singing it. There’s a hint of Waylon Jennings in “Jackpot.” And Stewart’s tone and delivery of “Fruit Cocktail Cannery Blues” reminds me a lot of Joshua Kadison.
But regardless of the stylistic variances on individual tracks, there’s a traditionally country dancehall twang and swing that permeates the disc. “Lonesome Melody” is one such heartfelt crooner, and it’s paired on the disc with the title track, the energetic, emphatic, fast-pickin’ and ivory-ticklin’ country dance number “Dancers in the Mansion.” Elsewhere, Stewart lends his deep voice to a song like “Carry On,” an old-fashioned country heartstring-tugger that sports a hint of ’70s pop-country behind its more traditional steel guitar-driven, storytelling crooning.
Throughout, this is an impressive album, delivered with strength, power, and sincerity by an artist well-suited to carry this brand of traditional country music into the next generation. If this sounds like a style of music you like, give Stewart Eastham a listen.
Keep an eye on Stewart’s website for upcoming gigs.