In the 1970s singer-songwriter Stewart was hotter than a two-dollar pistol, turning out a scorching fusion of country pathos and rock & roll drive, sung in a nervous vibrato that often soared to a tortured hillbilly wail. Wild, witty, boisterous, and unbridled, he had few peers. But in pure Hank Williams fashion, he soon shortchanged his career with the excesses spelled out in his sinewy honky-tonk hits (such as ”She’s Actin’ Single, I’m Drinkin’ Doubles” and ”Out of Hand”). After a time his music turned lackluster, and Stewart hit rock-bottom personally, then made a triumphant return two years ago. In Battleground he’s wound tight as a tourniquet, occasionally summoning the ghosts of the Allman Brothers and sounding (especially on ”Let’s Go Jukin’,” with its pumping piano) like Jerry Lee Lewis without the crazy edge. Producer Roy Dea understands Stewart’s barroom milieu, and he works to keep the backing tracks suitably lean, though the vocals are sometimes overshadowed by the instrumentation. Still, even a faulty mix can’t obscure the obvious resurrection of one of honky-tonk’s most ebullient heroes. A

  • Music