“Yes! I love performing there; it’s one of the best places that we play. The audiences are great, there’s people drinking wine and I’m a wine enthusiast so it’s a great place to perform,” says Al Stewart as he prepares to come to New Hope, PA for a two night engagement at the New Hope Winery.
Al Stewart was born Glasgow Scotland with roots in England and rose to musical prominence with the back to back platinum albums, “Year Of the Cat” in 1976 and 1978’s “Time Passages.” Stewart however, looks back on another of his collection as a probable turning point in his career; that being “Modern Times.” According to his recollection, in the early 1970’s, English folk artists were having a very tough “Go of it” getting airplay on American radio stations and he was no exception. “Well, to start, “Modern Times was the first album that Alan Parsons produced and that set me on a good path. I was trying to break out in America, I had had some success in England and there were so many successful artists in England but for some reason none of us could really break into or make a dent in the American market. “Modern Times” had a different feel and was somewhat of a transition. I was being managed by an American DJ at the time who said, “You know what American FM audiences love? They love electric guitar leads,” so we took that process to the next album. Parsons brought in Tim Renwick to play lead guitar and then we added saxophone; If you ask me, I think that the solos he put on my record were the best he’s played in his career. Tim turned my folk album into a rock album and when we combined the two elements you come up with, “Year Of the Cat.”
A self professed history buff, he doesn’t shy away from incorporating history lessons in his music or on stage. Stewart readily admits that he loves discussing his music, the historical references he incorporates into it and seeing the audiences focused on the anecdotes and facts he so eloquently intertwines between his selections. “I like to chat on stage,” he said with a laugh. “I like to mix it up a bit, come at my stories from different angles and improvise what I’m going to say. I guess you can say I’m old fashioned in a way; there’s nobody else doing what I’m doing. People have been doing this sort of thing for years, it started in the Peloponnesian War when troubadours would carry stories of the war or from their commanding officers and sing them to the proper people; what I’m doing is not terribly different. Most people today have a short attention span; that’s why most hits only have 20 or 30 words in them(laughs).”
The two nights in the bustling, quaint town of New Hope are a portion of a 12 date tour which he’s currently undertaking on the east coast but Stewart chuckles at the thought of this run being labeled as such,“I’ve been on tour for 50 years at this point,” he stated with a large laugh. “I no longer tour as I once did but we do have a dozen shows scheduled on the east coast. Now it’s more like I go wherever I’m wanted. My last two shows were in Tokyo and Rome; talk about being on opposite sides of the planet? I’ve probably logged about 60 hours of air time but it just worked out this way; I love to do what I do.”
Any thoughts of new material coming anytime soon are like the very stories which he tells; past history. “I don’t know,”he said with a touch of whimsy in his voice. “Perhaps when people start buying records again? Truly, nobody buys records any longer, they all seem to want singles and individual downloads. I don’t want to make records in a vacuum where I do so just for my own pleasure; I’ve seen these things and they’re called vanity projects. You make a record, pay for it yourself and then nobody buys it; I don’t want that. I enjoy having a half dozen other people involved, bumping around in a studio, offering different takes and opinions on things, I like interacting with others; I think it’s part of the overall process.”
Stewart says that his current stage mate, Marc Macisso, is a, “Great talent” and that he is never sure what may happen once the two are together in front of an audience. “I never know what Marc has in his pocket! He plays a slew of different instruments and I’m never quite sure where we’re going from one moment to the next, so without giving too much away; let’s just say it keeps things interesting and you’ll have to come to the show to find out.”
Stewart will be performing two shows; one each on Saturday June 11 at 8 p.m. and Sunday June 12 at 6 p.m. Ticket prices are a scant $35 for each show and can be purchased via the winery website at www.newhopewinery.com. The New Hope Winery is situated just a short distance from the center of town at 6123 Lower York Road and is easily located with plenty of parking available.
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To discover more about Al Stewart, please go to www.alstewart.com.