Harmonyville has vocalist/songwriter Didi Stewart sounding very much like a former bandmate of Harriet Schock than the lead singer of Boston's legendary girl group Girls Night Out. Stewart eases her fans into her Jackie DeShannon-style New Arrangement by opening up the disc with the most rocking' tune, "Love and Learn," chock-full of Stewart philosophy and elements of her regional hit, "Matter of Time," in the thumpa thumpa Cars riff. Stephen Sadler plays lap steel, mandolin, dobro and fiddle on the album, and if you think it's GNO (Girls Night Out's nickname for the non-Bostonians) meets Swinging Steaks you're not that far off -- Jim Gambino of the Steaks is on keyboards and adds much to the experience. "Sally's Garden" is a cross between Andy Pratt's "Grey, Chick and Malda," Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden" and Bonnie Tyler's "It's a Heartache" with some twists and turns to take the formulas to new places. The ballad "House for Sale" tugs at the heartstrings, an ode to moving on from the family homestead that is splendid in its melancholy. "Heaven on a Sunday Morning" is where Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane took her Spanky & Our Gang on the Change album when they went country in 1975, while "Something Wicked" puts Ray Bradbury's fantasy into a square dance setting. None of the dozen songs is over four-and-a-half minutes, with one coming in at two-and-a-half and, yep, she's still writing pop tunes only they are now leaning towards the new pop that is the world of country. That vibe can be found on "Dose of You," a good choice for a single, but then again, so is the aforementioned "Love and Learn" or the tender "You Had to Be There." Seventeen years is a long time in between discs and with the help of Duran Duran producer Anthony J. Resta, he of the '70s Boston area group Astra, the singer seems to be as fun and youthful as ever. It may take a slight adjustment for her older fan base to hear with clarity, but it's pure Stewart and has a lot to offer. A formidable songwriter, each melody is distinct and different while the song placement sets moods and makes for a quite complete work. Interesting to note that photography is done by Ellie Marshall of Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers andthe Marshalls as well as Alizon Lissance of Girls Night Out. Why they are not credited here on the musical side is the question! Still, it's another fantastic work from an underrated and important Boston area legend that deserves its day in the sun on country radio.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione