For a guy who’s biggest hit still remains 1983’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” Dave Stewart’s newest album, Blackbird Diaries, comes as a huge surprise. The former Eurythmics guitarist strays far from the ’80s techno for which the majority of the world knows him and instead grinds out straight-laced country-rock on this full-length 13-track LP. Complete with Martina McBride and Stevie Nicks collaborations, Stewart shoves aside any hint to a younger generation that he was ever an influence on ’80s sub-culture.
“So Long Ago,” the record’s first track and single, kicks off with a Joe Walsh-esque guitar riff and fills all the verse-chorus holes with “Funk 49” slide. Looking back on moments from his life, Stewart sums them all up in a quaint and simple manner: “That was so, so long ago,” and from that point forward, the Blackbird Diaries sounds exactly like a man flipping through the pages of his journal. Though Stewart’s been married for the past seven years, titles such as “Stevie Baby” (no, this isn’t the one Nicks is featured on), “The Gypsy Girl and Me,” and “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” give the impression that problems may have arisen in the confines of their sanctum. “Time is slowly ticking away/ But I know you’ll come back and be with me one day/ ‘Cause I miss you,” he bellows on “Worth the Waiting For,” which doesn’t exactly exude promise, and on “Cheaper Than Free,” he laments with the backing of Nicks, “What’s deeper than a deep well/ The love into which I fell.” Needless to say, the Blackbird Diaries isn’t the work of the same man who once cranked synth-reverb on “Here Comes the Rain Again.”
With this album, fans of Tom Petty would never imagine Stewart produced a couple of tracks on Southern Accents. Blackbird Diaries sounds more like something off Into the Great Wide Open. With the newfound twang of a southern blues artist, yet the well-version of a man who’s been in the game for over 25 years, this LP may be about reminiscence, but it’s revamping the future for this underrated guitarist.