Let There Be Country

Country Music (1992)
Country Music (2001)
The Tennessean

Country Music

November/December 1992
Now that he's hot, Marty, who welcomes reissues as much as I do, is the focus of several himself. Not only has CMH reissued some of his early work with Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass, but here, Columbia has dug back in the vaults to reissue--for the first time--both of his LP's for them, his first major-label experience after leaving Johnny Cash's band in the mid-1980's. Marty Stuart was released. The second, Let There Be Country, was recorded in 1987 but never issued.

The first album, good in its own way, doesn't really reveal the Marty of today. The entire music business itself was in a transition phase between Urban Cowboy and the New Traditionalist movement. The point here was to emphasize the country rocker side of Marty, and this was obvious in the material.

Two of the songs were written by Marty and producer Curtis Allen, two more by acoustic rocker Steve Forbert. Another was a remake of The Band's "The Shape I'm In." Taken as a whole, they reveal a far younger performer whose traditional interests were tempered by the desire of his record company to cut hit records on him. The approach wasn't really that successful; only one single, "Arlene," charted.

Let There Be Country, recorded after New Traditionalism made its mark, is far more indicative of what Marty does now with his producer Richard Bennett at MCA. The title track, an autobiographical Stuart original, says it all, crediting early mentor Lester Flatt for his direction and explaining his pursuit of youth and tradition with wit and flair. The presence of Mark O'Connor and Emmylou Harris underscores that direction and it's further reflected in songs like the witty "Matches," with its Johnny Cash feel, and Peter Rowan's bluegrass blues, "Last Train Done Gone Down."

He blazes through Merle Haggard's "Mirrors Don't Lie," mixing new songs with older material like Bill Monroe's 1951 gospel number, "Get Down On Your Knees and Pray," and Johnny Horton's 1956 hit, "I'm A One Woman Man," also a hit for George Jones in 1988.

Even in 1987 he had simple authority to put across a blockbuster like Harlan Howard's "Be Careful Who You Love (Arthur's Song)," recorded a couple of years ago by Hank Jr. This is the true story of a hard-drinking Knoxville songwriter Arthur Q. Smith who wrote and sold the rights to some classic country songs to other artists for peanuts. The brief, bluesy instrumental track, "Old Hat," serves mainly as an opening for the last four songs. Max D. Barnes' ballad, "Stone Blind" and "I'll Love You Forever (If I Want To)," penned by Max D. Barnes and Harlan Howard, end things in a straightforward, New Traditional vein.

Five years after it was recorded, Let There Be Country stands so strongly today that it raises a valid question that demands an answer: Why didn't Columbia, with New Traditionalists all around them in 1987, release the album then and give Marty's career a jump start?

By Rich Kienzle

Country Music

April/May 2001
Long before he had hits in the '90s like "Hillbilly Rock" and "Tempted," Marty Stuart was making powerfully individualistic music. His '80s stint at Columbia Records might not have brought him any big chart numbers, but this reissue of his 1985-88 work for the label proves that it wasn't because he didn't have the goods. The seeds of his stardom were sown in such tracks as "Mirrors Don't Lie," "Matches," "Let There Be Country," and "I'm A One-Woman Man."

The Tennessean

Oct. 2, 2000
There are a couple of stories here, the most important of which is that some fabulous songs and performances are once again available through Sony Nashville/Lucky Dog's new Pick of the Litter reissue series. The series puts some fine late 1980s and early 1990s material back into play and serves as a kind of pre-alt-country primer (that is, this stuff was considered country and some of it was played on country radio, but most of it would now be billed as alt-country).

The bad news is story number two: the Pick of the Litter series is haphazardly thrown together, poorly packaged and skimpily annotated. The reproductions of cover art are simply awful and there are no substantive liner notes, no accompanying lyrics, not even any information about what musicians played on what tracks.

Marty Stuart's 1992 Let There Be Country album is probably the runt of this litter, but Stuart fans will find it an interesting forerunner to his later more accomplished work. A nice take on Merle Haggard's "Mirrors Don't Lie" helps things out considerably. The Max D. Barnes and Harlan Howard co-write, "I'll Love You Forever (If I Want To)" was a hit for Pam Tillis, re-titled as "Don't Tell Me What To Do." [2-1/2 stars]

By Peter Cooper


January 4, 2001
Marty Stuart's 1988 major-label debut -- he'd put out a disc six years earlier on the Sugar Hill imprint -- is a prime example. Sales weren't strong enough to convince Columbia to keep him around, thereby affording MCA the opportunity to snap up one of the style's best guitarists. But far from being a mere curio, Let There Be Country may be Stuart's best disc to date, putting forward a collection of songs that are more than just excuses for fancy pickin' and well-shaped solos. Intelligently chosen covers from the likes of Merle Haggard ("Mirrors Don't Lie") and Bill Monroe ("Get Down on Your Knees and Pray") rub shoulders with fine Stuart originals such as the title cut, in which he persuasively contends that he's more than rhinestones and a fancy hairdo.

By Michael Roberts

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