Back in 1967, in the aftermath of the break-up of The Kingston Trio, John Stewart met a “homecoming queen” named Buffy Ford. She inspired his composition, “Daydream Believer” which became one of the last hits for The Monkees. After Stewart recorded Signals Through the Glass (1968) with his muse, the two married and were together until John’s death in 2008.
Through the years, Buffy continued to be her husband’s creative inspiration. In addition, the couple recorded various collaborative projects together like John Stewart and Buffy Ford’s Live at the Turf Inn, Scotland (1996) and John Stewart & Darwin’s Army (1999). Four years after her husband’s death, Same Old Heart is one of Buffy’s celebrations of John Stewart’s legacy. Half the compositions on the release are his, the remaining are by Buffy and most are love songs clearly written about him.
Ironically, the “Daydream Believer” herself finally recorded the song she inspired, sharing lead vocals with the voice who made it a hit. Apparently, this version is the final studio work from ex-Monkees member Davy Jones, who sings both lead and harmony vocals with his old mate, Peter Tork. Other musicians to pay homage to John include Bill Mumy (who released a fine tribute to The Kingston Trio this March) on “Man Who Would Be King” for which he plays dobro. Kris Kristofferson harmonizes on “Snakes of Nuevo Laredo,” Rosanne Cash on “Redemption for the Man,” and The Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit appears on the title song. The supporting players for the gentle folk sounds also include many cello solos from Rushad Eggleston and banjo work from Bill Peterson. Among the acoustic guitarists are Craig Caffall (of Maria Muldaur’s band) and the legendary Dan Hicks on “New Orleans,” one of the numbers written by Buffy.
It’s Buffy’s clear, warm and inviting soprano voice, of course, that should attract most listeners to this Americana-flavored release. Beyond her husband’s music and lyrics, Buffy’s own songs are perfect companion pieces. Many, like “You Really Loved Me,” “Once in a Lifetime,” and “Hard Living Without You,” are obviously autobiographical. There are no regrets here, nor bluesy complaints about tough times. Rather, Buffy’s “Follow Your Heart” perhaps best sums up the album, saying going that route was not only ideal for her but likely would be the same for her listeners as well.
Because of the now poignant connotations for “Daydream Believer,” Same Old Heart should reach a wider audience than such releases normally enjoy. If so, that’s a good thing. Better still, if new fans like the affirming and loving words and tones of Same Old Heart, perhaps they’ll take an interest in the back catalogue of both John and Buffy Ford Stewart. When you need a reminder of the power of love, here it is.
You’ll probably agree with Buffy Ford Stewart that a lifelong devotion is “My Biggest Prize.”