Gary Stewart 

Best of the Hightone Years

Gary Stewart almost became a superstar in the '70s. He had songwriting success with tunes like "When a Man Loves a Woman (The Way I Love You)" for Billy Walker, and hits like "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)," which he didn't write. After a solid four-year run of hits, personal and financial problems laid him low until Hightone signed him in 1988. Stewart's raw vocals (think Jerry Lee Lewis after smoking a couple cartons of Marlboros) are the real deal, and his songwriting chops are impressive, but he can be infuriatingly uneven. While "Bedroom Battleground" -- a look at an imploding marriage -- is full of real insight and real pain, rockers like "Let's Go Jukin' " and "I Get Drunk" are full of manic humor. Other times Stewart comes across as a macho clown, mouthing clichés that would make anyone but a drunk, intoxicated with his own cleverness, blush.

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