Busy Bee Cafe

Billboard New Country
My Kind Of Country Stereo Review


July 17, 1982

Stuart is a virtuoso musician on anything with strings as well as a 10-year veteran of country performing at the ripe age of 22. A graduate of Lester Flatt's band and now with Johnny Cash, Stuart's assembled a blue ribbon panel of players for this debut. Though he romps through the cuts in the company of Cash, Doc and Merle Watson, Earl Scruggs and Jerry Douglas, among others, he's far from intimidated. He even sings well and could continue what Ricky Skaggs has so admirably begun on the charts.

My Kind Of Country

May 7, 2012

It’s common to hear today’s singers speak about their country roots, but it’s relatively rare to come across an artist who not only talks the talk but walks the walk as Marty Stuart has done. He was already a seasoned veteran at the age of 24 when his second solo album, 1982's Busy Bee Cafe, was released. Instead of using the album as a platform to propel himself to stardom, he seems to content to share the spotlight with the many guest artists — Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Merle Watson, Carl Jackson and Jerry Douglas — who contributed to the project. It perhaps should have been billed as an album by “Marty Stuart and Friends.” An acoustic and heavily bluegrass-flavored collection, it seems like an odd choice for a young artist trying to make his breakthrough. Instead, it appears to be one of those rare projects made for the love of the music, without much regard for commercial considerations.

The album contains a few traditional numbers, a few written by Marty himself, and a few more written by his musical mentors Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and Johnny Cash. Cash lends his vocals to three tracks — the album opener “One More Ride,” Lester Flatt’s “Get In Line Brother” and a remake of Cash’s 1954 hit “Hey Porter.” All three songs are billed as duets, but Cash’s vocal is much more prominent than Marty’s on “One More Ride.” “Hey Porter” is strictly a Cash vehicle; Stuart’s voice can only be heard occasionally as he gives shout-outs to the other musicians playing on the track. “Get In Line Brother” is arranged more as a vocal quartet, with Cash again dominating. Marty’s voice can be heard, but it is overwhelmed by Cash and the other two uncredited singers. Marty’s singing is more prominent on tracks like “Blue Railroad Train,” “Busy Bee Cafe,” and “Down The Road” — which features the unmistakable banjo-picking of Earl Scruggs — but he sounds very little like the singer we’re familiar with today. His voice is not as strong, nor his style as distinct. The only glimpse of the singer who would one day break through with “Hillbilly Rock” is the album’s closing track, the rockabilly-flavored “Long Train Gone.”

Though Stuart was yet to fully blossom as vocalist at the time of this album’s release, this project is more noteworthy for the picking than the singing, as evidenced in its several instrumental tracks such as “I Don’t Love Nobody,” “Watson’s Blues,” “Soldier’s Joy,” and “Boogie For Clarence." The entire project has a feel of a bunch of friends sitting around the living room and just letting the music happen. It won’t appeal to those who don’t like bluegrass or instrumental music, but it will be very much enjoyed by those who do.

Grade: B+

By Razor X

New Country

April 1994
Like fellow bluegrasser Ricky Skaggs, Stuart opted for a pickin' intensive debut on the Durham, North Carolina-based Sugar Hill label before going to the big leagues. Here, Stuart's virtuosity on mandolin shines, even as he attracts a group of country's finest pickers to spark and race with him. Though no clear style emerges, this project lends credence to Stuart's prodigy status. [Five Stars]

Stereo Review

December 1982
All-star albums that give Doc Watson a large role usually succeed and Marty Stuart, a young sideman in the Johnny Cash band, did that and more for his debut album. He got his boss, Big John, to sing a couple of numbers, Merle Watson to play some slide guitar, Earl Scruggs on banjo on a couple of tunes--a good supporting cast. and a good mixture of old and new songs--and he got himself a success, aesthetically, with some heft to it. Busy Bee Cafe, on Sugar Hill, is an all-acoustic but modern-sounding, traditional, but fresh new album that has, as one of its asides, a major flat-picking explosion.

Doc Watson, who plays or shares the lead on all of Side One, and Stuart sets off that explosion, trading leads on I Don't Love Nobody. Watson continues to amaze me, but Stuart is no slouch in comparison. He doesn't seem to control the volume of as many strings at a time as Doc does, and stylistically he is more of a note-bender than a rippler, but he's impressive, particularly in the speedy Boogie For Clarence. He wrote that one, an instrumental, apparently referring to the late Clarence White, another great flat-picker. Stuart is also a fine mandolin player, beyond bluegrass and toward David Grisman country, and he does a good job as lead singer on five of the songs on the album. He has a soft-edged voice that sounds a little like that of Mickey Newbury. And his songwriting, what little there is of it here, is better than respectable.

This is a performers' album, though, and the performers seem excited about it. Earl Scruggs is in fine form and Doc Watson plays hotter runs than he generally does on his own albums. Jerry Douglas doesn't get much tone of the dobro, or it isn't recorded well--the bass also seems a bit squeezed--but the engineering generally is pretty good, especially around the singers and lead instruments. That's where the action is and plenty of it, but it's complementary rather than competitive and, for all the razzle-dazzle, there are no fills that don't fit. Busy Bee Cafe is quite something; an example of how good musicians, whether they are stars or not, can inspire one another when the conditions are right. And Marty Stuart, for a mere kid, is providing some pretty good conditions.

By Noel Coppage

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