Wynn Stewart

After the Storm

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Wynn Stewart was one of the great country singers, and his influence was substantial, too, but his chart success never reflected the stature of his talent. During his early '60s peak on Challenge Records, when he was one of the architects of Bakersfield country, he had only one national Top Ten country hit, and when he switched to Capitol in the second half of the '60s, he scored a number one hit with the smoothed-over country-pop of "It's Such a Pretty World Today." He had three other Top Ten hits after that, but they were glossy approximations of the light, skipping Bakersfield sound and then he pretty much dropped off the radar during the early '70s, until he signed to Playboy and turned out the fine comeback effort After the Storm. It gave him another final Top Ten hit in the title track, but more than that, it gave him one of his better albums. At the time, Playboy was best-known as the home of Mickey Gilley, the singer who managed to give the rowdy, hardcore country of his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis a bit of a softer cosmopolitan shine, opening it up to a wider audience. This was due in part to the contributions of producer Eddie Kilroy, who also helmed After the Storm and gives it the same production he would give Gilley, guiding Stewart to a selection of material that walks the line between honky tonk and country-pop, including several new Stewart originals and revivals of his classics "Wishful Thinking," "Big Big Love," and "Sing a Sad Song." These new recordings carry a nice, reflective maturity in Stewart's delivery, marking them as distinctly different versions to the originals, and the rest of the album doesn't pale in comparison, with Stewart's wry originals "Don't Monkey With My Widder" and the playfully dark "I'm Gonna Kill You" carrying the torch for Bakersfield country, with "After the Storm," "Lonely Rain," "It Always Rains on Me," and "It's Such a Pretty World Today" nicely acquitting the pop side. It may be a little slicker and softer than his Challenge recordings, but there's a wonderful lived-in feel to his performances that gives After the Storm a real resonance, making it one of his finer proper albums.

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