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July 1, 2003

"Real" country music is back with Marty Stuart's newest recording. Country Music is a stroke of genius. Marty is back after taking the past couple of years off to work on team projects and other things. He spent a great deal of time searching for the perfect songs to put on this album, and it definitely shows in the finished product. One of the standout songs is called "Farmers Blues." It was written by Marty and his wife, Connie Smith and is sung as a duet with the legendary Merle Haggard.

Marty has been in the business since he was a teenager and has pretty much seen and done it all. He is a multi-Grammy award winner, has been nominated for just about every award there is. His instrumental skills are without question some of the best in the business, and you can hear him on both background vocals and instrumentals on some of today's hottest projects. Marty was a co-writer for half of the songs on the album, and re-wrote some verses in a couple more to fit what he needed to say. He is a very talented individual.

Marty co-wrote "Fool For Love" with Tom Douglas. It has the perfect tempo to take your love out onto the dance floor and hold them tight. He is so in love with her and is willing to amazing things to win her heart. It is a great love song.

The first single from the album is "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be." This is a fun song going through the list of different things in life that really should be around if they aren't already. It has an upbeat tempo and it almost requires you to sing along with it. It is a great summer release.

"Sundown in Nashville" is a testament to the days gone by in Nashville. It talks about sweeping broken dreams off the street at sundown, while the new day brings more dreams to crush. This is a song you would hear in you local honky-tonk.

"By George" is a play on the name George. She wants to know if she hits the backseat with him if she can call him George. He responds with a whole litany of different Georges that she is more than welcome to call him. It is an absolutely silly song that brings a smile.

Country Legend Merle Haggard joined Marty for the haunting song, "Farmer's Blues." After searching far and wide for the perfect song to record with Merle, it was found in some songs Marty and his wife, Connie Smith, had written for one of her albums. She gave it to Marty for his project, and it is truly the perfect song for the blending of their two voices. It deals with the hard life of the country farmer, and Merle sounds absolutely soulful and finishes the song with some yodeling that brings the spirit of Jimmie Rodgers into the song.

Josh Graves on Dobro and Earl Scruggs on banjo add a zesty flavor on "Tip Your Hat." This song is a tribute to many of the legends of country music as he names off different artists with songs they have made famous and says "tip your hat to the teachers." This song acknowledges that without these great people, country wouldn't have made it to where it is today. I loved the instrumentals on this song, but with legends like Josh and Earl - how could I not?

"Walls of a Prison" was written by Johnny Cash and was recorded on one of his albums awhile back. It is a touching ballad and is very well done. Marty sounds amazingly like Johnny on this song.

Bottom line is that anyone loving great music would welcome this album to his or her collection. Marty's enthusiasm for what he does is very apparent in his material. It is pure, unadulterated country music and he sings from his soul. Along with the CD, you also get a DVD disc that features Marty discussing different songs that he's done along with a rather different photo gallery. It is not mentioned on the case and was somewhat of a surprise.

By Jolene Downs

All Music Guide

July 1, 2003

Marty Stuart's Country Music is not, as some have said a radical departure from his already eclectic body of work. As to whether it's "the album of his life," is up for debate too, since Stuart doesn't sound here like he's slowing down. Stuart has given us one of the most consistent catalogues in the country genre since 1980. He has few peers in terms of quality — George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, and a few others are in his league. But Country Music is different and may arguably be the finest recording he's ever issued. This is his first full-on country-rock record with no apologies. Teamed with grand master engineer and producer Justin Niebank (Widespread Panic, the Subdudes, etc.), Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives turn old nuggets such as "A Satisfied Mind," Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison" (that open and close the album respectively) into wooly country rockers with killer three- and four-part harmonies and burning guitars, Hammond B3s, mandolins, pedal steels and rockin' drums. On the other hand, newer songs by the performer and a handful of others are already revved up and cut to fly. This is a rock & roll record cut from the man vein of honky-tonk country. And the country that it comes from is pure — give a listen to "Farmer's Blues," a sweet slow, two-step drenched in pedal steel with a duet vocal by Merle Haggard, or the burning-down blues-rock with dobro and banjo of "Tip Your Hat," with Uncle Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs. But even the straight up rockers such as "Sundown in Nashville," "By George" (which has dumb lyrics but kicks ass anyway), "Wishful Thinkin'," and "Too Much Month," feel as if they could have been played by a rowdier version of Rockpile, while the mid-tempo tracks — "Fool for Love," "Here I Am," "If You Wanted Me Around" — only serve to underscore the influences of Messrss. Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. Ultimately, this album is relentless, in both its attack and in the pleasure it provides the listener. There are hot licks everywhere, great songs and vocals and a tapestry of moods, textures and shades that serve to leave one impression: that Stuart's radical experimentation of the last ten years has resulted in this, his finest moment thus far: offering a prolonged look at how inseparable country and rock & roll are from one another. This may be the summer album of 2003 and, if there is any justice at all end up on the Ten Best list of virtually ever critic worth her salt. [4-1/2 out of 5 stars]

By Thom Jurek

July 1, 2003

His country credibility long established by his tenures with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart has always shown respect for the music's roots while also embracing the Nudie-suited, higher-the-hair-closer-to-God, show-biz attitude of a Porter Wagoner. On Country Music, his Columbia debut and first new album in four years, the chameleon-like Stuart has come up with a great, eclectic set of tunes and performances. He kicks things off in high style with "A Satisfied Mind," a cover of Wagoner's biggest hit, here given a rolling, Waylon Jennings-style arrangement. Stuart includes a respectful but nonetheless dead-on impersonation of the Man in Black on the lesser-known Cash tune "Walls of a Prison." On "Farmer's Blues," a new classic he penned with wife Connie Smith, it is hard to tell where Stuart leaves off and guest vocalist Merle Haggard begins--not a bad thing. What is more distinctive is the "Marty Party" good spirits he brings to honky-tonkers like "By George" and "Too Much Month (At the End of the Money)." Country Music does contain a few missteps: a heavy-handed (and botched) attempt at incorporating hip-hop into country ("If There Ain't There Ought'a Be") could have been more organic and he could have featured the vocal and instrumental accomplishments of his Fabulous Superlatives a bit more. Still, Stuart reminds us that country need not be "alt" to be exciting.

By Michael Ross

American Music Channel

Trust Marty Stuart, self-confessed guardian of all things traditional, to call this incredible new album something as straightforward as Country Music. Like many in Nashville, Marty has been disturbed by recent industry trends to avoid the country music tag. He has been a vocal defender of traditional music and veteran artists, while never criticizing the pop ambitions of Nashville's current stars. Says Marty, "I have been playing country music since I was a kid. I was on the road with Lester Flatt when I was 12. It's in my blood. But you know, I toured with Johnny Cash for years, and I love rock and roll. I just want to keep the flag flying for the more traditional roots of the music I love."

To understand what Stuart is trying to achieve, check out track number 7, "Farmer's Blues." Written by Stuart and his wife, Opry star Connie Smith, the song was created with Merle Haggard in mind. It is down home, white collar blues that Haggard would be proud of. Indeed so enamored with the bluesy material was Merle that he joins Stuart in a rousing duet. Says Stuart, "It was a tall order to find a new country song to impress Merle Haggard. It is like showing Mount Rushmore your rock collection."

Elsewhere on this milestone recording, Stuart teamed up with more country legends, Earl Scruggs and Josh Graves. For the most part Stuart and his hand-picked musical partners, the Fabulous Superlatives, (Harry Stinson, Kenny Vaughan, Michael Rhodes, and Tony Harrell) draw a musical landscape from the Deep South to the West Coast as somehow Stuart manages to bring new life to a diverse and varied number of roots music influences. After his Pilgrim album failed to make any commercial inroads, Stuart felt it was time to reconsider his career. He worked on a Johnny Cash tribute album and some soundtrack projects before retreating to home state Mississippi and rediscovering what it was about music that first inspired the young Marty to pick up the guitar. "I went back to Mississippi and just spent some time out in the country, in the woods. I kept the family farm there with the same pine trees; I could hear the same train whistles, see the same stars, and feel the same atmosphere that inspired me to love country music and play it when I was a kid."

Highlight of the album is the lilting "If You Wanted Me Around", co-written with Emmylou's ex Paul Kennerley. It is one of those country music nuggets, which perfectly displays the beauty of simplicity and melody. It's one of those songs destined to be recorded by a host of artists and may well get Stuart back on the radio.

By Andrew Vaughan

BBC Radio

July 2003

There's two sides to Marty Stuart. There's the hedgehog-haired "glitterbilly", who wears tight faded jeans, flamboyant Nudie jackets and gets arrested for driving under the influence. But lurking underneath is a serious artist, a fine guitarist and mandolinist who joined Lester Flatt's band in his early teens, and whose debut album Hillbilly Rock placed him alongside Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett and all the other New Traditionalist artists who emerged at the end of the 1980s and put the roots back into country music.

It's over three years since Stuart's last record, the wonderfully dark (but little selling) concept album The Pilgrim. The boldly titled Country Music album and accompanying Electric Barnyard tour will see him tracing the back roads of America once again, focusing on the people in rural communities to whom this music is meant to speak. But don't expect a collection of scratchy Appalachian ballads; from the opener, a fiery reworking of Porter Wagoner's hit "A Satisfied Mind," this is warmly electric stuff.

Stuart's backed by his road band, the aptly named Fabulous Superlatives, who comprise bassist Brian Glenn, Harry Stinson (Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett) on drums and guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Lucinda Williams). And there's some top guest artists too. Earl Scruggs, the hardest-working 79-year-old in the business, adds some soulful banjo licks to the end of Tip Your Hat and Merle Haggard duets on a more moving piece, "Farmer's Blues." Stuart wrote the song with wife and fellow Grand Ole Opry member Connie Smith and, in the DVD that comes with this album, he explains how hard it was to write a song that would impress his hero: "It's like showing Mount Rushmore your rock collection." The Hag had just one suggestion, to change the line "walk the land" to "work the land" so they could connect with the real lives of the farmer's more acutely, which Stuart says changed the whole meaning of the song for the better.

Immediate highlights include upbeat numbers like "Too Much Month (At The End Of The Money)," the plainly silly "By George" and "Wishful Thinkin'," but perhaps the finest moment is Stuart's reworking of a little known Johnny Cash song "Walls Of A Prison" on which he can't help but mimic the Man in Black's voice. Based on the same traditional English ballad from which spring Streets Of Laredo, it is more stripped down and slow than the rest of the album and brings Marty's latest party to a dignified close.

By Sue Keogh

Matt Bjorke

July 19, 2003

Marty Stuart is a renaissance man. He simply does everything. When he was just fourteen, Lester Flatt took him under his wings and fostered the amazing growth of a guitar/mandolin player from good a teenage player to a virtuoso by his late teens. After leaving Lester's band (shortly before he died), Marty went on to do studio work and tour with Vassar Clements and eventually by 1980, as a 22 year old, membership in Johnny Cash's band.

In 1982 Marty recorded his first CD, but he was hardly ready for the big time. Instead, it presented the virtuoso beginnings (similar to Nickel Creek) of a man who later became one of Country Music's biggest stars in the 1990's (for MCA Records) with hits like "Tempted" and "Hillbilly Rock." He was known as a rockabilly rebel who loved to have fun with buddies like Travis Tritt.

By the time he released what many consider the best modern album (1999's The Pilgrim), MCA was tiring of Marty's ways and didn't promote the record and subsequently dropped him from the record. From there Marty found love with Opry star Connie Smith. He was labeled a has been by many outside the industry but with his insane passion for collecting country music historical relics, he fostered the move of the Country Music Hall of Fame to a new building and served as the president for a few years while producing albums for others and showcasing his great photography in art galleries around Nashville.

All that time Marty still had a flame burning inside and after producing the Sony music tribute to Johnny Cash, Marty signed with Sony Nashville's Columbia Records (oddly the same label for his first major label debut in the 1980's).

What is the result is something I didn't expect. I have always liked his music and Marty and I share the same birth day (he's exactly 20 years my senior) but I never bought a record by him 'til I saw his newest CD Country Music at the store with a price under 10 bucks. Included was a DVD that featured a short bio on Marty and that was enough to sell me to get the record.

Recorded by virtually every artist who's known in the genre of "Country Rock" (and made famous by Porter Wagoner "A Satisfied Mind" is a classic song re-interpreted by Marty and his new band The Fabulous Superlatives (studio guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer/vocalist Harry Stinson and bassist/vocalist Brian Glenn).

"Fool For Love" is a Orbison styled ballad. Written by Marty and Tom Douglas ("Love's The Only House") the song has a haunting melody that helps tell the story of how you cannot get that one person off your mind despite what you try thus you're "a fool for love."

"If There Ain't There Ought’a Be" is the first single from the CD and it is very contemporary. It prominently features the banjo and fiddle while telling a story about tall tales that should come true. This is a fun summertime song that I hope will crack the Top 40 at least.

Perhaps the best song on the CD, "Here I Am," has a great lyric about a guy who promises the world to his special lady, despite the fact that he's not what she really wants. "So if you want a man, I mean a man, Baby Here I Am," the song says. While the song is steeped in modern country tones, it also prominently features a gorgeous steel guitar solo. I haven't heard this much steel in a song in about five years (save for George Jones).

"Sundown In Nashville" sounds like an old song by the basis of its traditional sound (it IS an old song) yet it was written by someone named D. Warwick? This three minute song is an ode to Nashville and those who come to the Mecca in search of their dreams only to go away at night.

While the lyrics are a little cheesy, "By George" is nonetheless a fun song. Its melody is driving and the song is a three minute slice of rockabilly heaven.

The legendary Merle Haggard joins Marty on the somber tale of life with the "Farmer's Blues." It's not gonna get any airtime by mainstream radio but some mavericks are sure to play it as are Marty and Merle on their Electric Barnyard Tour of 2003.

"Wishful Thinkin' " is a song that country band River Road recorded a couple of years ago but Marty and the Fabulous Superlatives take this song and really put their stamp on it. I could see this track becoming a single sometime down the road.

"If You Wanted Me Around" was written by Marty and longtime writing partner Paul Kennerley ("Tell Me Why," "Tempted," "Hillbilly Rock") and is a straightforward hillbilly-rock love ballad. Nothing more nothing less.

"Too Much Month (At The End Of The Money)" is a fun little track that anyone who has ever had to pay a bill in lieu of going out to the club or buying some new clothes can relate to (I know I can). That leads me to believe this could be a monster hit at radio and in the bars. It's a song everyone but the filthy rich can relate to.

"Tip Your Hat" is a great song that is modern yet tells the history of country music in about four and 1/2 minutes. Written by the great songwriter/singer Jeffrey Steele ("I'm Tryin'," "My Town," "Hel'Yeah," "She'd Give Anything") and featuring the legendary dobro player Josh Graves and banjo legend Earl Scruggs.

The final track on the album is an obscure track from and old Johnny Cash record called the "Walls Of A Prison" (originally from 1968's Sea To Shining Sea). Marty retained the light and sparse arrangement of the song and even somewhat sounds like The Man In Black himself. This is a perfect ending to a consistent and enthralling comeback record. This is a record that anyone who calls themselves a country fan should own. It will undoubtedly be on my "Best CDs of 2003" list.

Billboard Magazine

July 19, 2003

Though record sales and airplay have not always reflected it, Marty Stuart has released some of the most stylish and creative country albums of the past decade. Throughout, he has managed to blend a respect for tradition with a healthy dose of hip—seasoned with killer fretwork. Stuart's first Columbia release may top 'em all, beginning with a hard-charging reworking of the chestnut "Satisfied Mind" and including such reverb-drenched cuts as "Fool for Love," "If You Wanted Me Around" and "Here I Am." "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be" and "By George" are too cool for words, and the steel-laden "Sundown on Nashville" offers honest perspective where others have taken shots. The spare "Farmer's Blues" (with Merle Haggard) is a gem, and "Tip Your Hat" (with Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs) is a goose-bump-inducing tribute to the country teachers. A reverent take on Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison" wraps up one magnificent record. This is country music.


Boone News-Republican

July 17, 2003

It is like taking a trip back to the good old days. That is how I would describe the latest album by Marty Stuart simply titled Country Music. In today’s age of country music, the goal has been to get a sound as close to pop music as one can and still call it country.

That is the kind of sound I expected to her out of Stuart. I was shocked when it was the exact opposite. The Country Music album resurrects the sound of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Roger Miller and Hank Williams.

Many of Stuart’s songs have ring of familiarity, almost as if you had heard the song hundreds of times. The 12-track album has several high spots sprinkled through out.

“A Satisfied Mind” kicks off the album and lays out what this album is all about. All the money in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you are not satisfied is what the song is saying. “Fool for Love” has a beautiful melody and smooth-as-silk sound. “Farmer’s Blues” stands out because country music legend Merle Haggard sings with Stuart. The song is a gritty throwback to Haggard’s work. The song talks about the family farm and how can the farmer in the song survive in today’s world. Stuart, during several interviews, has named “Farmer’s Blues” as one of his great musical works.

But the album is not all heart break and hardships. “Too Much Month (At the End of the Money)” has that comedic feel that is similar to Roger Miller’s “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.” “Walls of a Prison” is the album’s last song and strongly resembles Johnny Cash’s vocal sound. Cash wrote the song, which is mainly why it sounds the way it does.

Country Music is not the greatest album to come out this year. Many people may not like it. This album is the old country sound. Stuart has returned to the very roots of country music for this album. This album will not impress the “new” country music crowd. However, this album was not intended for that crowd. Country Music is a trip back in time courtesy of Marty Stuart. Fans of old style country will love this album.

By Michael Carlson

Buffalo News

July 11, 2003

Country Music finds Marty Stuart taking stock of his 30-year career and acknowledging the state of modern country. Born in the rural town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, Stuart had been spending the majority of his time in Nashville, as his career would seem to dictate. But a few years back, he felt the urge to return to his roots. He cleared the ground on the family farm where he was raised, set up shop in Philadelphia and reconnected with the music he had fallen in love with as a kid - Flat & Scruggs, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, bluesmen Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.

The presence of his idols hangs over Country Music, a "back to basics" country record that finds Stuart looking back to move ahead. Backed by his Fabulous Superlatives - guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and bassist Brian Glenn - Stuart and his taut Fender Telecaster licks wrap themselves around a handful of C&W chestnuts and a heap of new tunes with the conviction of the recent convert.

"A Satisfied Mind," a song associated with Porter Wagoner, is fueled by Stuart's earnest vocal, the twin chicken-pickin' guitars of Stuart and Vaughan, and the elegant, understated pedal steel work of Robby Turner.

The Stuart-penned "If You Wanted Me Around" is perhaps the album's strongest track. Full of the righteous indignation of the wronged, the song packs the beautiful hurt that informs the finest country music, and though its production places it as a modern recording, Stuart's vibrato-laden licks recall Johnny Cash's early Sun Records sides and suggest a timelessness. Closing the album with his take on Cash's "Prison Walls" was a deft touch. Cash is never far from Stuart when the latter is at his best, and here, the younger man proves he is up to the task of inhabiting Cash's dark, shadow-filled world. It's haunting and beautiful stuff.

Stuart has made peace with his inspiration on Country Music, in the process offering us one of the finest recent entries in the country canon. [3 stars]

By Jeff Miers

Calgary Sun

August 19, 2003

OK, maybe Marty Stuart could have found a title for his latest album that was a tad more specific.
But believe it or not, the new traditionalist country vet might have had a hard time coming up with a handle that was more fitting.

Country Music — in its many different forms — is exactly what Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives deliver on his latest eclectic album. Want twangy country rock? Check out "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be," "Wishful Thinkin' " and "By George."

Prefer honkytonk waltzes? Cue up "Sundown in Nashville." After a little hillbilly boogie? Skip on over to the zippy "Too Much Month (At the End of the Money)."

Interested in guest stars? Go for the old-school "Farmer's Blues" (featuring Merle Haggard) and "Tip Your Hat" with Earl Scruggs.

Wanna hear a classic? Try his haunted version of Johnhy Cash's "Walls of a Prison."

Ultimately, if you're looking for top-shelf country music — no matter how you define it — look no further. [3 out of 5 stars]

By Darryl Sterdan

Chicago Sun-Times

July 13, 2003

With the appropriately titled Country Music, Marty Stuart continues his mission to honor the roots and history of this genre while also making art that is contemporary and accessible. Most country acts pay lip service to the notion of balancing the past and the present, but few actually do it with Stuart's style and conviction.

For fans of classic country, there's plenty of meaty substance to chew on here. Septuagenarian bluegrass masters Earl Scruggs and Uncle Josh Graves make cameos, and there's a surprisingly subtle vocal turn by Merle Haggard on the duet "Farmer's Blues," co-written by Stuart and his wife, Connie Smith.

The album opens with a powerhouse cover of Porter Wagoner's "A Satisfied Mind,'' and it closes with a version of Johnny Cash's 1967 ballad "Walls of a Prison." The old Carl & Pearl Butler tune about Music City injustices, "Sundown in Nashville," is just as relevant today as it was decades ago.

Despite numerous nods to yesterday, the album never comes across as nostalgic or anachronistic. The blue-collar anthem "Too Much Month (At the End of the Money)" sounds tailor-made for Travis Tritt, and if Tim McGraw cut Stuart's new power ballad "Here I Am," it would soar to the top of the charts. The comedic stomper "By George" is perhaps the first great country song to contain a reference to DVDs.

Marty Stuart has worshiped the titans of country music since he was a boy. With his latest disc and his 1999 release The Pilgrim, Stuart has finally created music that is worthy of comparison to the works of his heroes. [4 stars]

By Bobby Reed

July 1, 2003

It's never a good idea to count out Marty Stuart. True, he may not be the hit-making presence of the early 1990s, but the stylish singer should patent his hillbilly rock thing.

Stuart's previous album The Pilgrim delivered a devastating story, and it's a shame that few people ever heard it. Now, Stuart is focusing his energy on Country Music (Columbia), and it's a treasure. The hypnotic rhythms and passionate singing prove that Stuart's not merely going through the motions. Merle Haggard makes a welcome appearance on "Farmer's Blues," a song Stuart wrote with wife Connie Smith. Bonus: The first pressings of Country Music include a DVD with archival and interview footage. Here's hoping Stuart's fine return to form finds a wide and appreciative audience.

By Craig Shelburne

Country Line Magazine

August 2003

Marty Stuart likes to make records that are a cross between ‘50s rock and hillbilly dirt. It's an interesting combination that works for Stuart. This one is another keeper in your Marty Stuart collection. Once again he has taken arrangements and bent, hammered and stretched the boundaries of country music to make a memorable and totally enjoyable album. There are lots of gems in this one including "Farmer's Blues" with Merle Haggard singing with him, and "Too Much Month at the End of the Money," featuring the fabulous Earl Scruggs on banjo. I also enjoyed "Sundown in Nashville," a throwback to the ‘60s sound in Music City. And then, of course, there is the ever present shadow of the Man in Black and Stuart's former father-in-law, Johnny Cash in the song, "Walls of a Prison." I'd really like to see more of Stuart down here in Austin. I think he fits right in, and he is a fantastic producer to boot. Maybe that’s a possibility. Give this CD a listen and you'll see what I mean. I give it four silver spurs.

By Greg Roberts

Country Music Magazine

Aug/Sept 2003
Considering that his critically hailed 1999 song cycle The Pilgrim tanked in the marketplace, some might consider Marty Stuart's latest release to be an overt stab at resuscitating his commercial career.

Well, yes and no. You can't blame a guy for trying to find a berth at country radio. But more important, Country Music returns Marty to what he's always done best -- straight-up hillbilly rock that recalls such earlier gems as "Tempted" and "Burn Me Down."

Stuart has never gotten enough credit for his ability to reconcile the historical roots of country with the pulse of the rock age. That knack is in full force here. With the sharp smack of drums and a rockish count-off call, Stuart kick-starts his new release with an entrancing, modern take on the 1955 Porter Wagoner hit "A Satisfied Mind."

This is smart country rock -- the roots of the genre still peek through, but it's also honest music that doesn't pretend The Rolling Stones never happened.

A teenage prodigy who apprenticed with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt, Stuart is a stellar picker whose primary weakness has always come in the vocal department. His frequently thin pipes are seldom a match for the visceral punch of his musical chops. As a singer ... well, he's a great guitarist and mandolin player.

But Stuart often makes up for his vocal deficit in the heart department, most notably on the haunting rural reflection "Farmer's Blues," a moving duet with Merle Haggard. At a time when too many "legendary" guest spots feel manufactured, it's a credit to both men that this cut teems with organic feeling. It's also a credit to Stuart that he doesn't get blown off the map by the titanic Hag, a genuine risk for even the most accomplished singer. [3-1/2 stars]

By C. D.

Country Music News

This marks Marty Stuart’s first outing since his much-acclaimed but badly underplayed 1999 The Pilgrim concept album …and it’s appropriately called Country Music; just in case anyone’s forgotten about Marty Stuart and the music that he does best.

The album opens with a bit of nostalgia in a rousing version of "A Satisfied Mind," a country nugget that has the distinction of being a Top 5 hit in 1955 for three different artists (Porter Wagoner, Red Foley and Jean Shepard) at the same time…and it pretty much sets the tone for what follows.

Marty Stuart has always paid homage to his musical roots with his recordings and continues that trend here, this time with a couple of songs (strangely, not his own compositions) in "Tip Your Hat" and "Sundown in Nashville" that both speak volumes of what “country music” is really all about, and likely the reason behind the album’s title.

Country Music also features a Marty Stuart duet with Merle Haggard on "Farmer’s Blues" (penned by Stuart and his country legend/wife Connie Smith); and there’s an oddball Stuart song in "By George" which surprisingly is not about The Possum.

Cover tunes include a big production version of Johnny Cash’s "Walls Of A Prison"; and the more contemporary songs "Wishful Thinkin’," which first surfaced on a 90’s album by country/bluesman Michael Henderson; and the raucous "Too Much Month (At The End Of The Money)" a chart hit in 1989 for the short-lived trio Billy Hill.

In addition to the CD version of Country Music this release also has a “Limited Edition”, DVD (videodisc) which contains segments on Marty Stuart’s music career, the making of this album, a photo gallery, and enormous amounts of other interesting information and detail on Marty Stuart, and “Country Music” in general. Great stuff.

Country Stars Online

July 15, 2003

Whether he is singing the Porter Wagoner classic, "A Satisfied Mind," that leads off this CD or the Johnny Cash penned, "Walls Of A Prison," that finish this twelve-song album; you can call it traditional, classic, hillbilly rock, rockabilly, country rock, honky tonk, bluegrass ... however you preface it, no matter what you call it, there is no doubt that what you hear on the new Marty Stuart album is bonafide, absolute Country Music.

Stuart is back and sounding better than ever after taking the past few of years off. When radio dismissed his 1999 critically applauded album, The Pilgrim, despite the fact that the CD earned him Grammy nominations, he decided to take a break from the music business. He is quoted as saying that he took every gold record and award off his walls and avoided listening to the radio while he essentially went in search of himself. While on hiatus from recording his own albums he kept his creativity keen by working on other projects. Stuart scored artistic victories by composing the music for three movies and earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work on All The Pretty Horses. He wrote two songs on the Dixie Chick's Home album and produced an album for actor Billy Bob Thornton. He also produced an album tribute to his former father-in-law, Johnny Cash, titled Kindred Spirits.

The twelve songs on this album are reflective of Stuart's versatility as an artist and musician and showcases some of his best industry alliances. He was a co-writer for half of the songs on this CD and re-wrote some verses of a couple others. "Farmers Blues," written by Stuart and his wife, the beautiful and very talented, Connie Smith, was recorded with the legendary Merle Haggard who demonstrates his devotion to country by yodeling on this cut ... now that's Country Music.

By Cheryl Harvey Hill

Country Weekly

August 5, 2003
Oh, what a joy! Marty Stuart's just-released CD, Country Music, mirrors his unbridled passion for country that began during his youth around Philadelphia, Mississippi. Through the songs he's selected -- some new, some nuggets from the past -- Marty embraces heartache, love and rollickin' good times. It's unusual for every song on a CD to be a standout, but that's what you've got here.

"Farmer's Blues," performed by Marty and Merle Haggard and written by Marty and his beautiful singer/songwriter wife, Connie Smith, is a poetic tribute to the families who work the land. And romps like "By George" and the album's first single, "If There Ain't There Oughta Be," poke good-natured fun at hillbilly life. Breathing life into all the songs is Marty's band, the Fabulous Superlatives -- guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and bassist Brian Glenn. When you're at the store, you might want to buy two copies of Country Music -- 'cause you're gonna wear one out pretty fast!"

Country Weekly

September 30, 2003
If Marty's last album, The Pilgrim, was a summation of his journey -- and the journey of country itself -- the aptly titled Country Music sounds like the eager first step on a new one.

Marty's first new CD since 1999 has the lightest, most natural touch of anything you're likely to hear all year, even when dwelling on glum topics (as on the Merle Haggard duet "Farmer's Blues"). There may or may not be an audience of millions for this phenomenally fresh return -- but in the words of its first hit, "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be."

Sound Advice: Time to rejoin the Marty Party [4 stars]

By Chris Neal

Creative Loafing

August 28, 2003

Marty Stuart's 1999 release, The Pilgrim, was the most ambitious project of his career to that point. A concept album containing traditional bluegrass, hard country and Stuart's trademark rocking twang, the record sold poorly and cost him his record deal. Now on a new label and with a lesson barely learned, Stuart delivers the aptly named Country Music. Well known as a torchbearer for tradition, Stuart dug deep to create a work that appeals to both the contemporary tastes of the listeners and maintains his musical vision.

Kicking off with a powerful cover of Porter Wagoner's classic "A Satisfied Mind," Stuart and his new band, the Fabulous Superlatives, mix classic hooks with mainstream studio manipulation to create a comfortable compromise. The strongest tracks blend these elements quite well. For example, "Here I Am" features a fairly straight-ahead love theme, then knocks you out with Robby Turner's pedal steel work.

While cameos by Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs reinforce the authenticity of Country Music, Stuart occasionally errs on the side of obviousness in paying homage to his roots. "Tip Your Hat," for instance, is a meandering litany of famous names and song titles. While it's clear Stuart loves his heroes, the list of honors sounds forced and contrived in contrast to the hard-rocking chorus in the song. In spite of some weak spots, Country Music is a great addition to Stuart's catalog. And the biographical DVD included in some copies makes it a double deal.

By James Kelly

Detroit Free Press

July 6, 2003

Absent since the commercial flop of The Pilgrim, his outstanding 1999 concept album, Marty Stuart is back with the aptly titled Country Music, a project that opens with a surprisingly fresh-sounding take on "A Satisfied Mind," a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1955, and revives the little-remembered "Sundown in Nashville," originally recorded by Carl and Pearl Butler. Backed by handpicked guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bassist Brian Glenn and drummer Harry Stinson (whom he has dubbed the Fabulous Superlatives), Stuart also unveils some appealing new material, including the moody "Fool for Love" and the tender "If You Wanted Me Around." Bonus for lovers of traditional country: "Farmer's Blues," a Stuart-Merle Haggard duet on a tune written by Stuart and his wife, '60s country star Connie Smith.

Nothing here quite matches the fine work Stuart did on The Pilgrim, but his commitment to performing country music that's real and sometimes raw makes him a voice to be treasured. [3 out of 4 stars]

By Greg Crawford

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

July 11, 2003

While not as mesmerizing as his most recent disc, his 1999 concept record, The Pilgrim, Marty Stuart's latest effort is still one of the best country-music offerings you'll hear this year. On it, he sticks close to country's roots, covering Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison" and enlisting the talents of Earl Scruggs and Merle Haggard. Thankfully, Stuart has toned down his studded-jacket persona, and although he covers Porter Wagoner's slick "A Satisfied Man," Stuart gives it a dusty-road makeover. His only throwaway is "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be," an embarrassing attempt at hip-hop. Kind of puzzling why he included that on a disc called Country Music, but maybe that's why he did it; he's always been good at throwing people off. [3-1/2 stars]

By Malcolm Mayhew

Hartford Courant

July 24, 2003

Marty Stuart is a throwback in every sense of the word, from the image he cuts with his wind-blown hair and endless closet of glittering cowboy suits to the backwoods sound he delivers. He is also a remarkably straightforward artist, so when he calls his new collection Country Music, that's what he means to provide. The host of the ongoing Marty Party gets it right with a not-to-be-missed hoot of an album, a rich and varied assortment of top-notch tunes from someone serious about making them.

Stuart is a no-nonsense vocalist, and his warm tone rings pleasantly next to the electric guitar chime of the supple "Fool for Love." Twangy charm resounds from the no-frills ballad "Here I Am," and there is a compelling gravity to the cowboy-style delivery of the low-key "Farmer's Blues." He's also not afraid to get loose, sporting a playful yelp on "By George" and rolling out the hillbilly delight "Too Much Month (at the End of the Money)" atop a feisty piano groove.

Stuart gets equal mileage from the assured bob of "Sundown in Nashville" and the Johnny Cash impression he loads into a cover of the Man in Black's "Walls of a Prison," because in each case he sounds like he's simultaneously celebrating history and blazing his own trail. It is fitting that he enlists luminaries Earl Scruggs and Uncle Josh Graves to color his tribute number "Tip Your Hat" near the end of the disc, because by then he has demonstrated many times over that he is as qualified as anyone to put his old-school chops to good use.

By Thomas Kintner

Iowa City Press-Citizen

July 31, 2003

Despite a staggering résumé befitting an extremely productive artist 20 years his senior, Marty Stuart (at a remarkably youthful 44 years of age) is racing along in mid-career, continuing to up the ante with no apparent ceiling in sight.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Stuart showed an early flair on guitar and mandolin, joining The Sullivans bluegrass group at age 12. A year later, he left home for a rolling education with the legendary Lester Flatt's band. When Flatt left the road for health reasons in 1978, the still-teen-aged Stuart picked with Doc Watson and Vassar Clements for a while, then hooked up with Johnny Cash from 1980 until 1985.

An energetic, flamboyant showman known for big hair and flashy Nudie threads, the diminutive dynamo has since maintained a successful solo career in the midst of innumerable all-star recording sessions, Grand Ole Opry appearances, award-winning soundtracks and serving as president of the Country Music Foundation (which oversees the Country Music Hall Of Fame) from 1996 through 2002.

Country Music is Stuart's first solo recording since 1999's critically-acclaimed The Pilgrim. Featuring a band of hot-shots (including Stuart Duncan, Harry Stinson, Kenny Vaughan, Robby Turner, Tony Harrell and Alison Prestwood) that is in no way oversold by their brassy moniker, Country Music exudes palpable pride in classic country tradition.

From the huge, Golden Era studio sound to the perfect balance of evergreens and sparkling original material to the dazzling retro artwork that bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Johnny Cash's 1958 Columbia debut, the disc pays homage to the genre's linchpins while remaining startlingly alive and current.

Opening with a rollicking take on "Satisfied Mind" (Porter Wagoner, The Byrds), Country Music flaunts Stuart's catholic tastes, deftly mixing ballads, honky tonk, endearing novelty tunes, vintage rock'n'roll and gorgeous ballads. Merle Haggard chimes in on Marty and wife Connie Smith's "Farmer's Blues," and Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs pick up a storm on "Tip Your Hat," a shameless valentine to enduring country hits and their makers.

Fittingly, the set closes with a moving rendition of Cash's "Walls Of A Prison." The Man In Black was not only Marty's boss in the '80s - for five years he was also his father-in-law. The marriage (to Cindy Cash) didn't last, but the friendship has never wavered, and Stuart can be found all over Johnny and June Carter Cash's work ever since.

Sadly, Country Music may be too country for what passes for "country radio," but if passion and pickin' are your cups of tea, its pleasures are simply non-stop.

By Jim Musser

Lexington Herald-Leader

July 18, 2003

Few country artists have tried so hard as Stuart to flex traditional honky-tonk muscle within commercial country, and few have come up with such spotty results. Country Music is a keeper, though. With his band, Stuart has emerged with one of his freshest vehicles for old-school twang. For instance, an update of the spiritual "A Satisfied Mind" augments the killer guitar chorus with earthy accents of B3 organ. Stuart loves to name-drop when the legends sit in (Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs on "Tip Your Hat"), but given how he pulled off such multigenerational country fun on a major label, Stuart has every right to gloat. [3 stars]

Louisville Courier-Journal

August 23, 2003

This album begs the question: If Marty Stuart had not betrayed his country roots, would he have had to put out an album especially to reclaim them? And if he is indeed playing the role of the prodigal son, as he says on Country Music's accompanying DVD, is that an admission that his past Nashvegas behavior, complete with rhinestoned clothes and kitschy country songs, represents sinfulness?

These are the not-very-interesting questions flowing like a riptide beneath Stuart's latest album, a collection of slightly campy country songs, a few well-chosen tunes and one or two performances worth a listen if only for their nostalgic Nashville feel.

Sonically, the record is delicious. In terms of tunesmithing, the careful listener will likely cherry-pick a couple of songs and file the CD away. Stuart's voice and overall professionalism mean every cut is in strong, confident hands.

When he lays hold of a particularly good song, such as Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison," the results are enough to make one wonder if Stuart might have better honored country music's past by simply covering old classics. Instead, he tackles "Sundown in Nashville," which sounds like a C-grade Gram Parsons song. We hear "Too Much Month (At the End of the Money)," which is as cardboard-thin as its jokey title implies.

The atmosphere swirling around "A Satisfied Mind" and, more so, "Fool For Love," is quite comfortable in a classic country sort of way, but the focus is, as everywhere on this disc, on Stuart and his performance. The word "performance" springs to mind repeatedly with Stuart and for good reason: He's an entertainer, and in country music that invariably means living with both the sins and roots displayed here.

And with that conclusion, the above, mildly intriguing, questions are answered.

By Bob Bahr

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

July 11, 2003

Ever-steady Stuart, a traditional country troubadour if ever there was one, sticks close to his roots on this twang-filled set of new tracks and long-lost covers. The disc includes a duet with Merle Haggard on "Farmer's Blues," but it's not one of the stronger cuts. Stuart is much better when mining a nugget like Carl and Pearl Butler's tale of broken dreams "Sundown in Nashville" or when paying homage to some of his friends such as Johnny Cash on the rightfully reverent "Tip Your Hat." Stuart also reworks an obscure Cash treasure, "Walls of a Prison."

By Kevin O'Hare

September 12, 2003

Marty Stuart's last album was one of the finest country records EVER RELEASED, a lovely mysterious big-hearted work of art concept record called The Pilgrim. But it turned out that country fans didn't want anything like that back then, and it didn't sell more than a few copies—unfair, unconscionable, but what are you gonna do? That's the ugly part of the music business.

So what do you do when you hit it out of the park but they don't let you circle the bases? Well, you do what Stuart did: you take some time off, get a crackin' young band together (well, two of the three band members are young), and get yourself out on a barnstorming tour of the some of the most out-of-the-way venues in America. (This is all detailed on the accompanying DVD.)

Then, when you get that band back into the studio, you make a simple album that's actually not simple at all—one that sounds like regular country music, but is shot through with soul and rock and rockabilly touches laid in so gracefully and tastefully that no one complains when you call the whole damned thing Country Music. Stuart and his band just simply cook through twelve songs in forty minutes, and they do so in fine back-to-the-roots style.

The opening tune, "A Satisfied Mind," is a great example of the recurrent "mo' money, mo' problems" strain in pop, a patient and measured justification for not hitting the big time. But it is with "Fool For Love," a Stuart-cowritten western smooth-jam with beautiful doo-wop harmonies in the chorus, that the record really takes off. By the time we get to the first uptempo number, the sorta-kinda-almost-rap number "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be," you really start to have a feel for who Marty Stuart is: a nice guy who wishes he had been born 20 years before he actually was, and really really wants people to like his music.

His charisma is actually just old-fashioned charm—listen to the way he slugs it out with Merle Haggard on the touching "Farmer's Blues." Anyone who thinks that this is kind of a rip of Hank Williams Sr.'s "Lonesome Whistle" is probably right, but it's just an homage after all, especially when Hag says "Yodel, boy," and Stuart busts out with an insanely perfect but low-key yodel, and actually makes you feel it. And when Stuart invites "Uncle Josh" Graves and Earl Scruggs on board for "Tip Your Hat," which is pretty much just a list of other older country artists that don't suck and their best songs, it goes beyond "sweet" and into the category of "sublime."

Not that the whole thing is that way. "By George" is a Stuart original, the silliest song you're gonna hear this year; his girl gets turned on when she calls him George, so he says "Weeeeeell, you can call me George Jetson / Call me George Jones / I'll be your Georgie Porgie / All night long!" But it rocks so hard, and steals such a fake-gospel part from a Neil Diamond song, that you won't mind. And "Too Much Month (At the End of the Money)" is pretty much exactly what you think it is.

But when Stuart is in his blue-collar lover mode, like in the perfect "Here I Am" ("I don't look much like Prince Charming / With Mississippi on my hands / But if you want someone to hold you / Baby, here I am") and "If You Wanted Me Around," or his let's honor country tradition mode (covering Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison" wins so many credibility points that it's almost illegal), then he's unbeatable. I love this, you will too, and the fact that this hasn't cracked the top 20 on the country charts just proves that Nashville has to get its long-overdue head-out-of-its-ass-ectomy, and pronto.

By Matt Cibula

[Note, the album came in at #5 of the Almost Top Ten Albums of 2003: "Marty Stuart, despite his mighty silvered mullet and the 'Marty Party' persona, has rebirthed himself as one of country music's truest believers. This album doesn't just sport the most apt title of the year; it's a testament to the different sounds and textures of country music...if this is corny, then bring the butter and some extra napkins!"]

Nashville City Paper

July 10, 2003

It is no surprise that someone as devoted to maintaining country's heritage and legacy would make a superb traditional record. Marty Stuart's latest even pays homage to Columbia's former design practices, boasting a cover from the 1960s. However, the music's appropriately contemporary in terms of sensibility and production, with Stuart's buoyant vocals and playing solidly up front in the mix. He divides his time between electric and acoustic guitar, playing mandolin only occasionally.

From the celebratory theme of "Tip Your Hat" to the remorseful feelings expressed on "Fool For Love" and "If You Wanted Me Around," or the emphatic performance on "Walls of a Prison," Stuart sings with passion and power. However, the session gem comes in "Farmer's Blues," a duet with Merle Haggard, that's a vivid reminder of just how glorious real country can sound.

By Ron Wynn

It’s truly amazing when you start to think that Marty Stuart began his long musical journey at the age of 12, when he toured with gospel artists the Sullivans, as well as Lester Flatt’s band. The hillbilly rock hero hit it big on radio in the 90s, and we last heard from him commercially when he released the concept album The Pilgrim on MCA about four years ago. While critically acclaimed, radio (of course) scratched its collective head at the project, and it cost Stuart his record deal. Since that time, he’s been doing his own thing - writing and producing and finally inking a record deal with Columbia Records. But Stuart also spent some time back home in his native Mississippi, thinking and gaining inspiration, and then writing. The result is yet another terrific album from Stuart and his “Fabulous Superlatives” (all-star players and kindred souls Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson, Brian Glenn and other guests).

Country Music kicks off with a kicked-up version of Porter Wagoner’s hit, “A Satisfied Mind,” and the album is brought full-circle with the closer, a cover of Johnny Cash’s obscure “Walls of a Prison.” As further evidence that Stuart is an artist always mindful of his roots, the Jeffrey Steele-penned “Tip Your Hat” does just that - paying tribute to some of the genre’s legends. As a bonus, Dobro master Josh Graves and banjo man extraordinaire Earl Scruggs work their magic on the cut.

Perhaps the most radio-friendly song in the batch (and not surprisingly, the first single) is “If There Ain’t There Ought’a Be.” But if that’s all you hear on the radio from this album, it’ll be a shame, because there is such a wide variety of material from which to choose. Stuart turns witty in “By George,” one of five songs written or co-written by him. He jams on “Wishful Thinkin’,” and reflective on “Sundown in Nashville” - a tune originally cut by Carl and Pearl Butler. Stuart rewrote the second verse to bring the song up to the times. But the project’s centerpiece is a breathtaking duet with Merle Haggard called “Farmer’s Blues.” The song was originally penned by Stuart and wife Connie Smith to be included on a future Smith album, but once Stuart found out that Haggard would be joining him on a song and forthcoming tour, Stuart thought it was the ideal song for such a duet. He was right.

Country without being “too country;” rock and hardcore rockabilly without getting too far away from country’s roots; that’s Marty Stuart. And that’s definitely Country Music - a truly super(lative) project, indeed.

By Lisa Berg

New York Post

July 1, 2003

If you're a Nashville picker like Marty Stuart, it's pretty bold to call an album Country Music. Stuart manages to live up to the brag with a disc of hillbilly rock that has twang but doesn't lay it on aw-shucks thick. One of the most sought-after sidemen in Nashville - as well as a best-selling solo artist - Stuart calls in a few markers on this album, which features appearances by ancient banjo master Earl Scruggs and the great Merle Haggard. Every good country album has a phrase like "my wife run off with my best friend, and I sure do miss him." Here, it's "There's too much month at the end of the money."

By Dan Aquilante

Newark Star-Ledger

Most musicians would not attempt to represent an entire genre of music in the title of a record, but Stuart has a reason for doing it here. A country musicologist and advocate in addition to his work as a musician and producer, Stuart pays tribute on this record to his country heroes while delving into several traditional country styles.

Although the public knows him mostly as one of the brighter lights in modern country, Stuart has been performing on the big stage since joining Lester Flatt's bluegrass band in 1971 as a guitarist at the age of 13. In his role as advocate, Stuart lately has made a point of publicly lamenting the fact that there presently is no country radio station in the New York metropolitan area.

As a musician, what separates Stuart from the contemporary country pack is his hard-hitting, intelligent singing and songwriting in which he avoids clichés while proudly representing the genre in his own individual, uncompromising way.

Like most of today's successful country musicians, Stuart grew up in the rock era and his songs have a rock pace. But he doesn't lose sight of the country essence. A rousing bluegrass tempo makes "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be" a delight, while an infectious rockabilly backbeat might make you jump out of your chair on "By George." Stuart sparkles on the honky tonk-style "Sundown in Nashville," in which exuberance meets disappointment: "Each evening at sundown in Nashville, they sweep broken dreams off the street."

There are some twangy, affecting ballads, including "Farmer's Blues," a duet with Merle Haggard; and "Walls of a Prison," a song Johnny Cash adapted from the traditional "Streets of Laredo." On the talking "Tip of the Hat," Stuart cuts to the chase, paying homage to numerous country giants of the past by naming them, culminating with Hank Williams and Flatt and Scruggs.

By combining the strengths of old country with the strengths of new country, this album has the potential to appeal to fans of all ages. Let's wish Stuart the best as he pursues his crusade to bring quality country music to the widest possible audience.

By Ben Horowitz

Philadelphia Daily News

July 1, 2003

On Country Music (Columbia), Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives sum up the styles that have always appealed to him, from the hillbilly humor of "By George" to the utopian "If There Ain't There Oughta Be," haunting ballad "Fool for Love" and country blues barnburner "Wishful Thinkin'." Stuart also revives the obscure Johnny Cash song "Walls of a Prison" and updates Porter Wagoner's "A Satisfied Mind." First edition comes with a bonus DVD. B+

By Jonathan Takiff

Philadelphia Inquirer

July 20, 2003

Marty Stuart is always championing country tradition, and on his first album in four years he does it most overtly on "Tip Your Hat," a salute to a litany of country greats that features his old boss Earl Scruggs on banjo. When it comes to his own music, though, Stuart's vision of country is pretty progressive, and that holds true here.

On Country Music, Stuart again covers a broad range with passion and intelligence (well, except for the dumb "By George"). The moody and sleekly atmospheric "Fool for Love" segues into the down-home joy of "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be." The pure country "Farmer's Blues," a duet with Merle Haggard, kicks into "Wishful Thinkin'," a barroom scorcher. Stuart also gives a coolly rocking update to the old Porter Wagoner track "A Satisfied Mind" and a starkly effective reading of the Johnny Cash ballad "Walls of a Prison." "Sundown in Nashville," meanwhile, is a vivid cautionary tale ("They sweep broken dreams off the streets") set to rolling honky-tonk. [3 stars]

By Nick Cristiano

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

January 23, 2004

It all begins with an idea and the desire to share it through words and music. Too many country artists, however, believe that there's only one way to arrange their words and music, forgetting that beyond the airwaves, country music is a big, broad, beautiful way to share ideas.

Marty Stuart hasn't forgotten. After four years outside of the limelight, the former sideman for Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash is back with a strong album. His Country Music proves that country music isn't dead, it's just been comatose on the radio.

Stuart digs deep into his Mississippi roots for influences, embracing an old-school country ambiance without sounding like a throwback. Like the Dixie Chicks' phenomenal "Home," the album is stubbornly pro-country without doing everything the Nashville way.

To his credit, Stuart wrote or co-wrote half of the dozen songs, including several of the best, including "Fool for Love," "Farmer's Blues" (with Merle Haggard) and the diabolically catchy "If You Wanted Me Around." Anyone who's forgotten what country's all about needs to take a listen to Jeffrey Steele's "Tip Your Hat," a tribute to the genre that showcases Earl Scruggs and urges listeners to "tip your hat to the teacher." [3 stars]

By John Hayes

River Reporter

August 14, 2003

Marty Stuart is one of a handful of Nashville-based country artists who have grown jaded with the star-maker machinery, shallow plasticity and business games of the Music City.

While still on a major label, Stuart, a downright country traditionalist who’s not afraid to rock, has come roaring back with this knockout disc of hot country music that pays homage to country’s roots while keeping the sound fresh and modern. While no doubt looking for a hit record, Stuart never loses sight of where he came from and remains an artist of integrity throughout. Tracks like the old folk standards “Satisfied Mind,” “Sundown In Nashville” and “Tip Your Hat” are standouts, but it’s all good and all worth hearing.

By Bob Cianci

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

August 14, 2003

Marty Stuart has for years mixed country/bluegrass credibility and Nashville bombast. He was a virtuoso mandolin player who was invited to play in Lester Flatt's band at age 14, and he later was a touring member of Johnny Cash's band.

He went solo in the early '80s, with big hair and rhinestone-covered Nudie suits, but it took "Hillbilly Rock" in 1989 before he broke through as one of the so-called New Traditionalists.

A decade of chart success followed, including popular duets and tours with the like-minded Travis Tritt.

His new CD, the simply-titled Country Music, breaks no new ground, which Stuart would say is the point: Traditional country music is what it is.

And a Marty Stuart CD is what it is, too - burning guitar work, gorgeous harmonies and a sort of mid-'80s power pop meets honky tonk attitude.

The CD is bookended by classics, opening with Porter Wagoner's "A Satisifed Mind" and closing with a relatively obscure Cash tune, "Walls of a Prison."

In between, Stuart flirts with novelty (the dumb, fun and rocking "By George"), and at times comes awfully close to Tim McGraw radio-ready country, as on the electric fiddle and guitar sound of "If There Ain't There Oughta Be."

But Stuart's songwriting saves the day, especially on weepers such as "Here I Am" and "If You Wanted Me Around." "Tip Your Hat" is a mandolin and banjo (by Earl Scruggs) showcase that lists and honors country music's pioneers, including the incomparable Merle Haggard, who guests on the duet "Farmer's Blues."

Stuart succeeds as a country traditionalist because he's not a slave to the past, and as a contemporary artist because he respects the founders. Country Music succeeds, too.

By Barry Gilbert

July 17, 2003

Absent since the commercial flop of The Pilgrim, his outstanding 1999 concept album, Marty Stuart is back with the aptly titled Country Music, a project that opens with a surprisingly fresh-sounding take on "A Satisfied Mind," a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1955, and revives the little-remembered "Sundown in Nashville," originally recorded by Carl and Pearl Butler. Backed by hand-picked guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bassist Brian Glenn and drummer Harry Stinson (whom he has dubbed the Fabulous Superlatives), Stuart also unveils some appealing new material, including the moody "Fool for Love" and the tender "If You Wanted Me Around." Bonus for lovers of traditional country: "Farmer's Blues," a Stuart-Merle Haggard duet on a tune written by Stuart and his wife, '60s country star Connie Smith.

Nothing here quite matches the fine work Stuart did on The Pilgrim, but his commitment to performing country music that's real and sometimes raw makes him a voice to be treasured. [3 out of 4 stars]

Take Country Back

July 2003

For the past few years, Marty Stuart stepped out of the spotlight and has spent much of his time on the other side of the glass, mostly producing and occasionally guesting on albums for other artists. He finally comes back with his first album of his own in 4 years, with his Columbia Records debut Country Music. The disc is simply titled, and here Marty takes us on a romp through a few different styles of country music, both originals and covers, that range from his classic "Marty Party" sound to more mournful, acoustic sounds.

Country Music opens up strongly with a terrific cover of the Porter Wagoner hit "A Satisfied Mind," that Marty delivers with a driving, classic Waylon-esque vibe to it. The offbeat, drunken swagger of "Sundown In Nashville" makes this honky tonker a real attention grabber. "Too Much Month (At The End Of The Money)" is a classic style honky tonker, the clever word play isn't carried too far as to make it too 'cutesy,' and it includes some really great guitar and piano licks.

Classic 'Marty Party' country rockers are represented with a pair of songs, the winning bluesy, fiddle driven "Wishful Thinkin'," but "By George," misses the mark. The hard driving melody is a winner, but it's lyrically pretty weak. Likewise, "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be" starts off promising, with an interesting country/hip-hop groove that unfortunately disintegrates at the chorus into contemporary MOR radio fodder. He succeeds at a more contemporary sound with the well written, mid-tempo "If You Wanted Me Around," with a driving beat and some nice guitar work. Marty delivers two outstanding ballads. Not being one terribly fond of romantic style ballads, I've got to admit, both instantly grabbed me. The gorgeous "Fool For Love" has a retro-noir feel to it and works particularly well. The bluesy "Here I Am," is just a flat out good song, Marty real nails it vocally, and the steel is breathtaking.

Country Music's highlight is a duet with Merle Haggard, the mournful waltz, "Farmer's Blues" which Marty co-wrote with wife Connie Smith. Marty and Merle's voices blend and compliment each other's beautifully, and they both deliver strong vocal performances. The swampy, deep southern country-blues "Tip Your Hat (To The Teacher)," is lyrically more of a shout out/roll call of country music's greatest than a song, but the point is well made and well taken, and the song's gritty arrangement includes some incendiary picking by Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs. Which seems poignantly fitting then, that Marty should follow that up and close out Country Music with a mournfully dead-on rendition of an obscure Johnny Cash song, "Walls Of A Prison."

Marty Stuart established his country music credentials decades ago while apprenticing under several of country music's legends. When he stepped out to start a career of his own, he's always shown the deepest respect for country music's roots, while at the same time adding a little fun and style by embracing it's gaudier, glitzier, rhinestone encrusted Nudie suit 'showmanship' side. Country Music finds Marty still traveling that same path, and despite a misstep or two along the way, it's sure good to have him back on this side of the glass booth again.

By AnnMarie Harrington

The Tennessean

July 7, 2003

It appears that Sony Nashville, under new management, has taken a sudden and welcome interest in releasing and marketing great country music.

The saccharine Billy Gilman and the featherweight Little Big Town are gone from the label, while Patty Loveless is being readied for a big push back to her rightful star stature. Another sign is the release this month of albums by Buddy Jewell and Marty Stuart, two veterans in their 40s who got their breaks at very different points in their lives.

Stuart went on the road at 13 with bluegrass pioneer Lester Flatt and has made country music at the highest levels of commitment and quality ever since; as a star and as a protector of the music, he's known as well as anyone in Nashville.

Jewell, an unknown six months ago, struggled for 20 years in bars and demo studios before landing his record deal by winning TV's Nashville Star this spring.

Their respective albums reveal some different touchstones.

Stuart is rooted in golden-age country, bluegrass and first-generation rock 'n' roll, while Jewell's more contemporary sound has traces of Alabama, Kenny Rogers and Clint Black, who produced Jewell's debut album. But both achieve their goal: approachable, memorable and emotionally potent music that couldn't be mistaken for anything but country.

Stuart underlines the point with his album's title — and a few sharp opening licks of steel and guitar from the Fabulous Superlatives, his self-explanatory new band. The disc is bookended with classic covers — the Porter Wagoner hit "A Satisfied Mind" at the top and Johnny Cash's more obscure "Walls of a Prison" in the caboose position.

In between is a rangy and varied collection that's lush ("Fool for Love"), goofing ("By George"), blazing ("Wishful Thinkin' "), honky-tonking ("Sundown in Nashville") and cranking ("Too Much Month At the End of the Money"). Its breathtaker is a duet with Merle Haggard on a Stuart/Connie Smith waltz called "Farmer's Blues."

There are other artists of Stuart's generation who balance the traditional and the modern on a knife's edge (Dwight Yoakam and Loveless come to mind), but none does it with Stuart's hillbilly panache. Despite its traditional roots, Country Music has a contemporary vibe without feeling glossy. Only the semi-rapping "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be" feels like a conscious nod to ''today's hit country,'' but it has a snappy chorus, and Stuart's snappiness is one of his many weapons.

Buddy Jewell is not a snappy country Renaissance man; he's a singer — a superb one, as well as a writer of some promise. Millions of people have heard only the heartfelt but drippy first hit "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)." But it would be a mistake to judge an album by its weakest track.

Jewell opens with the cheeky and self-explanatory "I Wanna Thank Everyone (Who Ever Told Me No)" and enchants with the regionally celebratory "Sweet Southern Comfort." A duet on the classic "Today I Started Loving You Again" with fellow Nashville Star finalist Miranda Lambert was a great idea and a near great track, but for some minor harmony adjustments.

"Abilene on Her Mind," which many liked from the show, is the nicest Jewell song here, with a highway-slick tempo. But the best stuff comes rounding third base. Jewell, who credits his faith with getting him through Alcoholics Anonymous, offers "One Step at a Time," a rocking country gospel rave-up with mandolin and harmonica that would make Marty Stuart proud.

Black's influence over his song "I Can Get By" is almost stifling, but it's a ripping cut with a kicker chorus and fabulous instrumental cross-talk. That eases into J. Fred Knobloch and David Duncan's "You Know How Women Are," a luscious ballad that invests a dismissive old cliché with real awareness, respect and tenderness.

Stuart can out-educate and out-entertain just about everybody in Nashville. Jewell can out-sing Stuart, not to mention most of the guys with hits on today's radio. It seems somehow right that they're on the same record label.

By Craig Havighurst

Times Record News

September 26, 2003

Marty Stuart was born to help carry genuine American-style country music into the future. His new album, Country Music, proves once again that this hyper-talented Mississippian has never lost touch with his common man soul.

Opening with a modern re-working of the old Porter Wagoner classic "A Satisfied Mind," a version that retains all the song's immediacy and message without ever wandering into pop/crossover schmaltz, Stuart starts strong and stays there.

With songs like "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be," "Too Much Month at the End of the Money," "Farmer's Blues" (with Merle Haggard), "Tip Your Hat," there's not a loser in the bunch.

Due more to the vagaries of modern mainstream country radio than a lack of quality on his part, Marty Stuart might never see his name at the top of the charts again; but that in no way takes away from his accomplishments as a staunch hero of American country music. (Rating: A-)

By Don Chance

USA Today

July 8, 2003

Stuart has spent the past four years scoring films, and the fruits of his labor show in the cinematic scope of Country Music, a generically titled album that's anything but. The album begins by modernizing the 1955 Porter Wagoner classic "A Satisfied Mind" and ends by remaking Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison." Between them, there's an eloquent duet with Merle Haggard ("Farmer's Blues"), a tribute to country's greats recorded with Earl Scruggs and Uncle Josh Graves ("Tip Your Hat"), and songs that are Chris Isaak blue ("Fool for Love"). Stuart's brand of country has nearly been brushed aside these days in the city "where dreams get shattered and swept to the outskirts of town." A single listen to Country Music will have you wondering just how that ever happened. (***½)

By Brian Mansfield

Village Records

July 2003

At first you might think the title to this one is kind of dumb. But think about it, he's one of the best friends country music ever had. He's been in the game most of his life and has stayed true to it every step of the way. This all new album is what it's all been leading to. He takes this one wire to wire and has come up with one of his best ever. It's a mix of covers and some new originals that find him in fine voice. You know when he opens an album with "A Satisfied Mind" that you've found an album of country music that you can settle in with. If that's not enough it's got a price that would make it stupid not to add this one to your collection.

Washington Post

July 30, 2003

Just about everybody but Marty Stuart takes Marty Stuart seriously. Anybody who has witnessed Stuart picking a stringed instrument or crooning a country tune can affirm that beneath the pompadour there's real genius, and can understand how, as a mere teenager, Stuart collected patrons such as Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash. Yet Stuart, now 44, has spent much of his solo career dumbing himself down, either by pairing himself up with lessers like Travis Tritt or by hyping his infatuations with big hair and glitter.

The dumb-down continues on Country Music, Stuart's misnamed and mostly disappointing new disc.

Stuart appeared ready to shelve his Marty the Party persona with the release of 1999's The Pilgrim, a daring attempt to make a country concept album. But despite critical acclaim, country radio avoided Stuart's sullen and sober material, and Country Music could be the fallout from that snub.

The new disc has a much more poppy, fabricated feel than its title indicates. Stuart appears to be going for the new country audience with "If There Ain't There Ought'a Be," on which he follows the lead of younger, dumber hat acts like Toby Keith by rapping a couple verses. He oughtn't. The production of "Too Much Month" is also too glossy, but its punch line is redeeming: Stuart sings that he'd really like to be able to treat his girl as she wants to be treated, but there's "too much month at the end of the money."

The lyrics in the goofy rockabilly romance tune "By George" don't make a lick of sense, and it's as overproduced as Stuart's coif, but the song is almost saved by Stuart's enthusiasm and one great line: "Her heart grew as cold in the air in the Norge," he sings.

Stuart gets preachy on "Tip Your Hat," a plea for younger country artists to remember and respect their elders. Stuart reads off a litany of country greats and some classic country songs, and screams, "For God sakes, boy, tip your hat to the preacher!" over ridiculously loud guitars and drums, before the band unplugs and the song ends with a fiddle and banjo picking party. Stuart recruited Earl Scruggs and "Uncle" Josh Graves, another veteran of the Flatt & Scruggs band, to play banjos on "Tip Your Hat," but you have to sit through a few minutes of pop pap before they get to it.

Stuart practices what he preaches with "Farmer's Blues." It's a sad waltz for the FarmAid set that he wrote with wife Connie Smith, and it features Merle Haggard as his duet partner. The disc ends with "Walls of a Prison," credited to Johnny Cash, who asked Stuart to join his band after Flatt's death in 1979. The quiet, melodic cut works as a tearjerker on a couple of levels. Once you finish crying for the jailbird who would rather die than remain imprisoned, the track can make you shed a few more tears wishing Stuart had made a whole disc of songs like it.

By Dave McKenna

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