Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.

Much has been made of Jesse Winchester's return to the U.S. following President Carter's pardon of draft dodgers, yet a lot of the attention has been politically rather than musically oriented.

This is a pity, because Winchester is a musician of the first order who revels in the various idioms and idiosyncrasies of American music.

Appearing before a near-capacity crowd at the Warner Theatre Sunday night, he and his songs spoke gently and carried a potent musical stick. They encompassed a variety of musical styles, from the light good-timey feel of "Silly Heart" to the gospel harmonies of "I'm Looking for a Miracle" to the rock chording of "High Ball." Each song was delivered with a strong self-assured quality that had the crowd hooting and bouncing in their seats.

His back-up group, Midnight Bus, was the equal of Winchester's magnetic presence. The sax and keyboard work of Greg Geddes and the bass of Paul Booth provided a solid background that complimented Winchester's bluesy guitar and piano.

At the end of a set, Winchester danced amiably offstage as the crowd screamed for an encore. He obliged with a sensitive gospel song that was sung a capella by him and his four-piece group. He then returned for a rousing "Jambalaya."

Sunday night, politics were left behind and Winchester's music was allowed to have its say. Jesse Winchester is a joyous American musical treasure.