By Rob McKenzie (Roktopia Magazine)
Laid back with a warm feel and full of carefully crafted and varied songs.
Ian James Stewart will be known to the Rocktopia readership as the guitarist of Strangeways. Stewart has just released 'Junk DNA' in which he sings, plays bass and keyboards and obviously the guitar. Although joined by guest musicians including his brother David on bass, this is very much a personal and individual album which I suspect has been a labour of love.
On first listen, the more upbeat tracks such as opener 'Junk DNA' and the Paul Simon-esque 'Charlie Parker' are not surprisingly more immediate and memorable. However the album is very much a slow burner and after a few more listens, all the songs come to life and it is clear that it is a quality offering. Stewart's voice is tuneful and commercial but also slightly fragile and so works well with the hypnotic slower songs such as the epic 'Phosphorus' and 'One More Time'.
Stewart's piano playing comes to the fore later on the album with 'So Far So Good', reminiscent of an introspective-style Todd Rundgren song. Of course the guitar is present throughout with some great phrasing on the final track 'If This Is Life'.
Legend Robert Wyatt who lives in the same area as Stewart, (Louth in Lincolnshire), pops up on the first bonus track 'When U Love Somebody'. It's a nice quirky song well sung by Wyatt, the issue being his voice is so distinctive the song stands out as very much the cuckoo in the nest. This impact may have been softened somewhat if the song was made a duet with Stewart and so made more cohesive with the rest of the album.
In summary, this album is laid back with a warm feel and full of carefully crafted and varied songs performed with panache by the talented Ian James Stewart.