American Sketches, released by the budget-priced LaserLight label, is a retitled reissue of John Stewart's 1984 all-instrumental album Centennial, originally issued by Homecoming Records. Stewart plays all the instruments (mostly acoustic guitars with some synthesized strings) on atmospheric tracks intended to evoke aspects of the American landscape. (Titles include "Grand Canyon Summer," "Montana Crossing," and "The Gold Rush.") In the liner notes to the reissue, Stewart says he was inspired particularly by Aaron Copland's classical works "Appalachian Spring" and "Billy the Kid," which in turn were inspired by folk music. As a songwriter, Stewart tends to be a little more structured in his writing than many new age performers, and the music here sometimes sounds like the beginnings of songs waiting for words.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann