Hailing from Huntington, West Virginia singer-songwriter Marcum Stewart caught the music bug early on and, following a move to Nashville back in 1994, has more than paid his dues. The backstories of newly signed artists nowadays no longer include starting work as a catalogue manager & ‘tape room guy’ for publishing companies, progressing to assistant engineer before forming your own song-writing group. Those stories are all the weaker for that, in Marcum Stewart’s case they are all true and explain a love for the craft of music that you can hear in his material. More recently Stewart featured in a duo Acklen Park with fellow singer Andrea Villarreal, the pair had notable success with their track ‘Great American Song’.
Emerging as a solo artist, in late 2014 Marcum released his ‘Put It In Drive’ album, which proves that despite his genuine comments that he moved to Nashville to be a songwriter/producer, he can more than hold his own as a Country artist. Four of the tracks from the album have already been picked up by US TV network Warner Bros and feature in episodes of their hit series ‘Hart Of Dixie’. One of those tracks ‘Great American Song’ kicks the album off, quite literally, with its driving electric guitar and fast-flowing lyrics. A stirring celebration of the American dream and striving to be all that you can, complete with a marvellously catchy chorus & fabulous guitar solo, the song lives up to its title.
Current single ‘Me Before You‘ is a heartwarming mid-tempo ballad chronicling the struggles in love before stumbling upon that special someone. Cleverly written to enable us all to crack a wry smile remembering similar mis-steps and delivered in Stewart’s warm vocals, it would be no surprise to see the singer snag a much-deserved hit here. Title track ‘Put It In Drive’ covers familiar ground with its ‘top down’/’put it in gear’ references but gets by on sheer enthusiasm and a cracking guitar riff keeping its’s wheels turning.
A reunion with former performing partner Andrea Villarreal on sexy ballad ‘Feels Like Love’ explains why they teamed up in the first place, the duo display a captivating chemistry on a track they penned together. Opening with big jangling guitar chords and storming percussion ‘Little By Little’ has an anthemic quality and bags of heart. Reminiscent of a Hal Ketchum cut in his pomp, Stewart delivers an impassioned performance on an exhilarating song. The melancholic ‘Every Sad Song Known To Man’ has an intriguing premise and musically is performed admirably, delivering the requisite level of sorrow. It suffers a little lyrically, feeling slightly too wordy (if that makes sense) making it a challenging listen and no doubt a stretch to perform for Stewart.
Shaking off the blues the singer boards the rocking ‘Party Train’, with the mood set on the opening ‘woo-hoos’ the song allows Stewart to completely cut loose and he revels in the fact. The big, brash production is more than matched by a gritty, growling vocal proving here is an artist that can really mix things up. With its rousing chorus, fabulous steel guitar and a compelling account of a couple ready to take a gamble on love, ‘A Reason’ is one the album’s real gems. Given the benefit of widespread exposure this track undoubtedly sounds like a hit in the making, surely a contender for a future single release.
The breathless ‘We Were Young’ looks back on those carefree days of our youth, percussion-heavy and again lyrically a little cumbersome in its verses, the track struggles not to feel somewhat generic. That being said it has the makings of a fantastic live track, and absolutely killer piano fills. Mid-tempo ‘Can’t Hold A Memory’ is an utterly superb take on the emotional fallout following the passing of a loved one, with its painful refrain ‘there’s no such thing as a fresh start, when we can’t hold a memory in our arms‘. Exceptionally written to enable the singer to relay the utter heartbreak and confusion, ‘Can’t Hold A Memory’ also boasts Stewart on the finest vocal form across the album.
The first of two bonus tracks ‘A Little Bit Of Pain’, is a stripped-down acoustic wonder of a track. Feisty vocals from Stewart, with perfect support from Andrea Villarreal, infuse a tale of a couple realising the strength of their love following a serious argument with a remarkable intensity, making ‘A Little Bit Of Pain’ an enthralling listen. As the album opened with ‘Great American Song’ so it closes, but this time the duet version with Andrea Villarreal. The songs works equally as well in duet form as that terrific solo effort from Stewart, book-ending ‘Put It In Drive’ fabulously.
Marcum Stewart has delivered an album to suggest that if he were to stick to his original aspirations of ‘only’ being a songwriter/producer he would be selling himself short. Having co-written all of the material here he proves to have an undeniable talent there, but as a performer he also shines. Having had a number of successful cuts of his songs by independent artists it would seem to be just a matter of time before a big-hitter picks up one of his tunes. Let’s hope that Marcum holds back a few gems for himself, ready for a follow-up to the hugely enjoyable ‘Put It In Drive’.