From print to perfect pitch, catch Stuwart June 28 in Pasadena
By Terry Miller
Raspin Stuwart’s roots go back to paying his dues as a working musician and also publishing a magazine named ‘Boulevard.’ The print product was an entertaining, community neighborhood magazine featuring local arts and entertainment but after 30 plus years, Stuwart craved to get back to his roots.
Launched in 1981, the publication grew with different editions created for Santa Monica, Ventura, Pasadena, and West Hollywood. The ‘80s were very good for newspapers and other print publications such as Boulevard. But alas, the world-wide-web and social media eventually started cultivating its massive reach and many small publications became almost obsolete in the wake of this new technology. As a partial result, in 2016, the publication closed. Stuwart told Beacon Media that the changing face of print journalism was a contributing factor: “it was a mixture of a lot of things but that was one of them. And after 32 years it was time. Sales is hard and in today’s market with social media and internet it’s harder.”
Stuwart was now able to focus full time on his real love, music, while performing and recording his own songs.
Stuwart’s voice is one of the most distinctive I’ve ever heard. It could be said that this guy has a raspy vocal affliction that’s part blues, part gospel, part comedic; it locks you in from the beginning of the album to the second to last track, a rather capricious “King of Foolz.”
When I first listened to Raspin’s CD, I deliberated a bit. How can you affix a genre on this guy? His music is rare, complicated, eclectic and unquestionably problematic to categorize albeit a poignant essay of life with its inevitable, mournful blues along for the duration.
Any musician worth his salt should have a respect, knowledge and understanding for all forms of music – whether jazz, classical, whatever – and this certainly shows in Stuwart’s new work on “NY2LA” released in March this year.
According to Stuwart’s website, his life and career can best be described as a tale of two cities – Chicago and Los Angeles.
The opening track, “Down Low,” is a haunting melody with a great sax by David Olivas. The amazing vocals give you a chill as you wander into the disturbing depiction of hell with extreme backing vocals and a sole baritone/bass singing the words “DOWN LOW.” This song deserves a second, third listen.
“NY2LA” is a pretty catchy bossa nova, with gentle acoustic classical guitar intro (vocals: blues influence with a haunting sax again) and very nice background vocals. New York is definitely calling Stuwart.
“Loving you” sports an interesting use of tremolo, bossa nova/jazzy feel, nice congas, guitar and again, I can’t overemphasize, the nice sax playing on a lot of the tracks.
“Nothing but lies” is sax heavy and I like it. Great horn stops catch you by surprise.
“Deaf dumb blind” shocks us again with some remarkable guitar riffs by Steve Trovato and dazzling horn stops. Again, the background vocalists need to be recognized. My only regret was that guitar solo leads out of the song too early. I would like to have heard that guitar solo, as an extended solo and not fade away in the final mix.
“Mamas got the blues” (wow great intro) with a Hammond B3 organ, not overdone, is a great pronounced blues song with double sax by David Olivas.
“Reelin’” has obvious honky tonk blues/country influences and nice piano Carl Byron.
“Love along the Way” has super backing vocals but is affecting and sad.
“You” is a moving, kind of slow ballad with a pedal steel guitar and nice build up.
“King of fools” has a brilliant viola, also speak singing humor; it’s whimsical.
We also love the touch of reggae on “Smoke the Hoookah.”
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Raspin was surrounded by the influences of the blues and jazz music greats of the era, as well as the popularity of the singer-songwriter music genre of the 1970s.
Catch Raspin Stuwart on June 28 at 8 p.m. playing Last Friday at Lyd & Mo Photography Studio & Gallery, located at 27 N. Mentor Ave. in Pasadena. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. Follow Raspin Stuwart at raspin.com | facebook.com/RaspinMusic | youtube.com/raspinstuwart | twitter.com/raspinstuwart | soundcloud.com/raspin