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Chris Stuart & Backcountry

Saints And Strangers – 2003 (Backcountry)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Chris Stuart & Backcountry

A decade ago, Chris Stuart gained widespread recognition in bluegrass circles as a singer and songwriter from his work with Cornerstone, the Ithaca, N.Y.-based band he led for several years. After moving to the West Coast in the late '90s, he dropped out of sight for a while, but re-emerges in fine style with a new band and a new album on his own label. Backed by Janet Beazley (banjo), Ivan Rosenberg (reso guitar) and Dean Knight (bass), Stuart's vocals have continued to mature, to the point that he's among the best baritones in the business, bringing another Chris to mind - Chris Jones.

His songwriting continues to demonstrate a variety of skills as well. The title track shows of his narrative abilities in telling a story of the Mayflower's journey, while "Silver Quarter" is a nostalgic tribute to Bill Monroe's habit of "loaning" coins to children he met. "This Body Is A Honky-Tonk" is another new gem, but there are also new renditions of oldCornerstone favorites "Jimmy Brown Revisited," "Paul And Peter Walked" and his toungue-in-cheek (pun intended) "Twenty Naked Pentecostals In A Pontiac." A welcome return, and among the best bluegrass discs of 2003. (13774 Recuerdo Drive, Del Mar, CA 92014)