Nashville, Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down

Addicted To Vinyl Nashville Scene
American Songwriter No Depression
Austin Chronicle Jonathan Pappalardo
Bristol News Philadelphia Inquirer
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Country Universe PopMatters
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Great American Country San Francisco Chronicle
Los Angeles Times Slant Magazine
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Toronto Sun

Addicted To Vinyl

April 23, 2012

Many, many moons ago, I got a promo of Marty Stuart's newest album at the time, This One's Gonna Hurt You. With titles like "Me & Hank & Jumpin' Jack Flash," I could tell that for a country guy, Stuart probably liked to rock.

So I put the album on and for approximately one album, I became a huge Marty Stuart fan. I kind of lost track of Stuart after that, although I always kept an eye and ear trained to see what he was up to. A few years ago, he was back in Cleveland for a fascinating evening of conversation at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that included stories of his time spent as a member of Johnny Cash's band as Johnny was preparing for his final "victory lap" that would come around in the '90s.

One thing that has always impressed me about Stuart is that he puts his cards right out there on the table. You never really have to guess who Marty Stuart is trying to be from album to album. He just sounds an awful lot like Marty Stuart, with a clearly defined definition laying out what that is.

On his new album Tear The Woodpile Down, Stuart defines that by saying that "today, the most outlaw thing you can do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music."

But it wasn't always that way, because as he notes, "when I first came to Nashville . . . the most outlaw thing you could possibly do around here was to take country music and blow it up into rock & roll. Mission accomplished!"

So Marty Stuart has made a great country album, 10 tracks deep and to take his outlaw ways even further, he wrote most of the songs himself. Recorded with his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, Stuart is joined by some special guests (including Hank III and Lorrie Carter Bennett), but he doesn't need any of them - Tear The Woodpile Down stands as the same kind of great Marty Stuart album that I heard back in 1992, no enhancements needed and it's highly recommended.

Hear four tracks from the album here and if you dig it, you can grab a free download of the title track via the widget below. [And if you reaaaaalllly like it, Marty won't mind it a bit if you should decide to buy the whole dang thing, which is in stores tomorrow (Tuesday, April 24th).]

By Matt Wardlaw

American Songwriter

April 23, 2012

Marty Stuart returns with this marvelous, if frustratingly brief, 30 minute album of traditional styled county originals. His appropriately named Fabulous Superlatives touring band is joined by a few guests, but this batch of wonderful songs that wrap themselves around oft-recorded C&W topics of truck driving, heartaches and lots of loneliness captures a rootsy groove that’ll make you forget all of Nashville’s slick qualities and love country and western all over again. In that sense it’s a continuation of Stuart’s career. The singer is in fine voice and seems inspired by this outlaw move to revive the time-honored music he loved when he first hit Nashville as an impressionistic kid in 1972. [3-1/2 stars]

By Hal Horowitz

Austin Chronicle

June 1, 2012

Marty Stuart, long considered the conscience of Nashville, conveys a similar sentiment in the liner notes to his latest disc, Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down. “Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee, is play country music,” he writes.

Of course he and his band the Fabulous Superlatives back it up with 10 tracks that run the gamut of what country music can be: straight up honky-tonk, a fiery guitar ramble in the mode of Joe Maphis, a bluesy trucker’s anthem, and duet on Hank Williams’ “Picture of Life’s Other Side” with Hank III. No “airhead country” here, just clear-eyed songs written and performed in the tradition.

By Jim Caligiuri

Bristol News

April 30, 2012

If Marty Stuart is a prophet, then his new album Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down heralds the coming return of real country music.

If Stuart’s a savior, then Tear the Woodpile Down amounts to the resurrection of country.

And if Stuart’s a general leading the way, then Tear the Woodpile Down amounts to a twang-toasting CHARGE and an all-out heave-ho of the rascals who’ve overtaken Nashville.

Whichever, welcome to the party, Marty Stuart style.

Axe in hand, life on his lips and country in his soul, country music’s renaissance man gets down to some serious renaissancing. Take the album opener, the title track. With fleet-fingered Buck Trent along for the ride, Stuart obliterates the woodpile with a precedent-setting, hard-core country preaching boogie woogie wigglin’ tune.

Stuart remains in the country pulpit throughout. A steel guitar-soaked "Sundown in Nashville" prefaces a rhinestones-sparkling "Hollywood Boogie" and the Porter Wagoner-imprinted "Holding on to Nothing."

Thereon and throughout the album, country reverberates from Stuart with the passion of a Pentecostal preacher. He’s whisper quiet here, fire and brimstone there.

Take "Going, Going, Gone." A mid-tempo, Telecaster meets steel-strewn tune straight out of the 1960s, the song’s lyrics of loss elevate upon the strength of Stuart’s conviction plugged into quite a cold hard fact of life.

Friends and neighbors, that’s country music.

Ditto Stuart’s duet with Hank Williams III on the graveyard sad "Picture From Life’s Other Side." Agony drips like tears from the corners of the eyes of the saddest of souls.

"Someone has fell by the way," Stuart and Williams sing, "a life has gone out with the tide, that might have been happy some day."

Stuart and Williams’ monumental pairing should open eyes, touch hearts, reach into the minds of man and persuade the soul to extend compassion to those who suffer among life’s ranks. So it goes well into the annals of country music. Country cares.

And Stuart cares for country. He’s managed to haul Nashville’s rich and nuanced past into the present with such a verve and point made that country is not going and certainly has not gone. Least ways not as long as Brother Marty’s in the pulpit. Country’s the word and he preaches it with passion.

By Tom Netherland

Country Standard Time

April 24, 2012 / April 27, 2012

Marty Stuart lives and breathes country music. It's in his blood through associations with folks like Johnny Cash. He's a huge collector of country's history, a photographer, and, oh yeah, quite a fine musician.

Stuart returns for another superb disc of only 10 songs (that's the only criticism here in a tight 31 or so minute set) mixing his stellar, full-bodied Mississippi drawl vocals, great playing, an instrumental, a spoken word (not the first time he has done that) with a tamed Hank Williams III on "Picture from Life's Other Side."

Stuart, of course, is more than ably backed by his great band, The Superlatives. That's evident right at the start with ace guitarist Kenny Vaughan laying down some great steely licks on the lead-off gospelly country song Tell. where Stuart sings with a sense of urgency. Vaughan, who is the glue that holds the Superlatives together time and again, is not just of the flashy variety (although he does provide them on the instrumental Hollywood Boogie, since he also laid down more textural licks on "The Lonely Kind." Stuart gives a shout out to wife Connie Smith on a truck driving song .

The pedal steel comes to the fore with Vaughan's playing interspersed in the country ballad "It's Only A Matter of Time." Quite clearly whether ballad, uptempo, honky tonk, gospel or bluesy, Stuart is comfy in all while stamping them with a Country sound. Read the very extensive liner notes Stuart penned as further proof of where his heart lies.

Stuart is a bit of a throwback these days - he's too good to knock what he may think are the failings of Nashville's hit making machinery. He doesn't need to these days. In fact, he pays homage to Music City - calling it a "country boy's Hollywood" and "where they sweep broken dreams off the street" in the mid-tempo "Sundown in Nashville." Stuart simply makes great country music the old fashion way, and for that we have a lot be thankful for, once again, from country's foremost renaissance man.

By Jeffrey B. Remz

Marty Stuart is country's renaissance man. He's held that title pretty much without challenge for years. The guy may have left home in Philadelphia, Miss. at the ripe young age of 13 to go on the road with Lester Flatt, and he's enjoyed a pretty darn good career.

Stuart enjoyed a chunk of hits in his commercially successful heyday, likeHillbilly Rock andWestern Girls from 1989. He also achieved much respect as great photographer.

Perhaps most importantly Stuart demonstrated his love of traditional country music. The affable Stuart achieved this in several ways. First, he is a collector of country music memorabilia, looking to the past to preserve the musical heritage for the future. The collection is an extensive one and not a bunch of outfits and instruments that he keeps tucked away under lock and key. Stuart has been generous in letting the public see his collection.

Then there is the music. Stuart has a long history of great CDs - Pilgrim in 1999, Souls' Chapel and Badlands, both from 2005, Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) in 2010. He was the kind of artist who even threw instrumentals into the mix, and pretty much aside from Brad Paisley, no one's been doing that. And he helped others as well, producing, for example, Porter Wagoner's final CD Wagonmaster, done with love and care for the singer and music. Stuart strays occasionally from country for blues and gospel, but those are connected with country.

Now we have Stuart's great new CD, Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down to enjoy. Stuart, who produced the 10 tracks, sounds confident and with good reason. This is one fine CD with folks like Buck Trent on banjo and, with at least a tip to the past in a way, Hank Williams III singing on the closing song "Picture From Life's Other Side."

Fortunately, life hasn't necessarily been like that for Stuart, although he's certainly endured his personal and professional ups and downs. Check out the extensive liner notes from Stuart, and a greater understanding of his life will result.

Stuart also knows how to pick an ace band, once again His Fabulous Superlatives. The name may be over the top, but the appellation is deserved. Listen to Kenny Vaughan on guitar, and you'll see why. There's also Harry Stinson on drums and Paul Martin on bass.

There are not a lot of cats hanging around Nashville these days making music like Marty Stuart. In this day and age where the top stars with only a few exceptions are playing a brand of country far far away from Stuart's vision, he is a welcome breath of fresh air. Good thing this is labeled "Volume 1." That means more is in store.

By Jeffrey B. Remz

Country Universe - Blog

April 24, 2012

The casual listener may remember Marty Stuart for the string of country radio hits he enjoyed in the late eighties and early nineties. However, Stuart’s legacy was cemented by groundbreaking projects released after his commercial heyday had drawn to a close, particularly 1999's landmark The Pilgrim as well as 2010's career-best effort Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions. Through such critically lauded work Stuart has built up a reputation as an elder statesman of country music, acting to preserve country music’s heritage and traditions, while simultaneously working to move the genre forward.

One important reason why Stuart has been such a fine advocate of traditional country music is that he does not treat it as a musical museum piece, but rather treats it as it is – as real and relevant now as it has ever been. This is continually evident on Stuart’s new Sugar Hill release Nashville, Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down. The project finds Stuart graciously and sincerely paying tribute to country music’s storied past, at times through well-chosen cover songs. He offers his own rendition of the Jerry Chestnutt composition “Holding On to Nothing” which was a Top 10 hit for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton in 1968. The song’s brilliantly constructed lyric finds a couple’s desire to rekindle their romance colliding with the sad realization that there is little left to save. “I feel guilty when they envy me and you” is arguably one of the best lines a country song has ever come up with.

But while the album respectfully nods to the past, the loose infectious energy of up-tempo tracks like “Tear the Woodpile Down” and “Truck Driver Blues” is hardly derivative, adding to the project’s contemporary edge. The latter finds Stuart both shredding the mandolin, and name-dropping wife Connie Smith. The album also offers a more restrained reinterpretation of one song that previously appeared on Stuart’s 2003 effort Country Music, and “Sundown In Nashville” is a song that is most definitely worthy of a repeat release. The lyric highlights the sad truth that for every performer who achieves the dream of becoming a country music star, countless others see their dreams “shattered and swept to the outskirts of town” – a sentiment that has remained of continued relevance on down through country music history.

On Tear the Woodpile Down, Stuart continues to indulge his penchant for collaborating with his like-minded friends. Sadly, the list of collaborators does not include Connie Smith this time around, but the harmony vocals of The Carter Family descendant Lorrie Carter Bennett add a bittersweet touch to the beautiful steel weeper “A Song of Sadness,” while veteran guitarist and Jerry Lee Lewis-collaborator Kenny Lovelace appears on “A Matter of Time.” The album closes on a high note with the Hank Williams III duet “Picture from Life’s Other Side” – a song originally written and recorded by Hank Williams, Sr., and one that Stuart and Hank III have performed together live. Stuart’s smooth vocal delivery contrasts nicely with Hank III’s gritty drawl. The two are backed by a bare-boned acoustic arrangement, allowing the song itself to pull the full weight with its brilliantly dark take on human mortality. While backed by his seasoned cohorts The Fabulous Superlatives – who get to twang it out on the rousing instrumental track “Hollywood Boogie” – the project also includes appearances by veteran steel player Robbie Turner, as well as multi-instrumentalist Buck Trent, who lends his banjo work to the comedic title track and to “Holding On to Nothing.” Such contributions aid in making Tear the Woodpile Down an endlessly cool-sounding record.

In classic Marty Stuart fashion, Nashville, Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down shines with stellar, classic-worthy songwriting, bolstered by top-notch musicianship and restlessly creative arrangements. It ranks as one of 2012’s best album’s yet – a thoughtful homage to country music’s past that remains fully connected to the present, and one that will thoroughly satisfy any passionate devotee of pure, simple, non-hyphenated country music.

By Ben Foster

Encore Sun Journal

May 31, 2012

Every year, that harbinger of spring and monarch of summer connects me to home. For me, home is not in the “Nation” that Red Sox fans claim as the center of the universe. You see, I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and home is “back home.”

Back home — where I grew up listening to Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck on AM transistor radio, where people still say, 'Yes ma’am,' and roll their hair on Saturday nights for Sunday morning church — has also got me stuck on Marty Stuart’s latest release, Nashville, Volume I: Tear the Woodpile Down.

Now any baseball fan worth his peanuts knows that the Cardinals are a first-class organization with a glorious tradition. But who would be so bold as to call a team “fabulous superlatives?” Not even Red Sox Nation-ites would get that braggadocio.

But Marty Stuart would. That’s what he calls his band. It’s not just Marty Stuart, ace solo artist. But it’s Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. And bully for Stuart for dubbing the moniker, because the musicians who play behind him are truly that good.

Kenny Vaughan on the acoustic and electric guitar looks like a cowboy Buddy Holly, but burns the strings like Bob Gibson blazed a fastball. Harry Stinson pounds percussion like Lou Brock on the base line. Paul Martin, primarily on bass, takes up tic guitar, piano and organ as seamlessly as the consummate utility man Jose Oquendo. Brian Glenn takes a spell on bass as well. Gary Carter (no, not the same Gary Carter who sank the Red Sox 1986 World Series dreams) and Robby Turner keep truly traditional country music alive with their fidelity to the steel guitar. Then there are Kenny Lovelace and Hank Singer on fiddle, and Buck Trent on electric banjo. I believe that makes nine.

And not to offend anyone in these parts, but as a Cardinal fan I’m also a National League fan. I find the notion of a designated hitter sacrilegious. No long ball can be as exciting as hit-and-run plays and stolen bases. Albert who? I’m still grumpy about the additional league divisions and drawn-out pennant races. I find that the older I get, the more I gravitate toward tradition.

Thank goodness Marty Stuart is doing the same. Stuart and I are about the same age. The difference is he went to Nashville when he was 13 to play at the Grand Old Opry while I was back home watching Buck Owens on "Hee Haw."

After receiving his education from legends like Lester Flatts and the recently departed Earl Scruggs, Stuart went on a bender with outlaw country music. Before bling came to the hip-hop scene, Stuart took Porter Wagoner’s rhinestones to a level of audacious flash. And Steven Tyler never wore tighter leather pants than Stuart did. Somehow Stuart managed to combine punk rock hair with 19th century Andrew Jackson scarves into a trademark style.

But through the trends and search for self, Stuart’s masterful musicianship on guitar and mandolin kept coming back home. Tear the Woodpile Down is an homage to traditional country music that springs from the roots and fields of rural America.

The liner notes (something you don’t get from downloads) written by Stuart read like a confession and love letter. His deference to Merle Haggard, George Jones, and his longtime boss Johnny Cash proves his deep appreciation for a truly American music that has become lost in a digital world.

Stuart concludes his note with, “Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee, is play country music. So therefore I say, Tear the Woodpile Down.”

And on this CD, Stuart does indeed. Several songs harken back to crying-in-your-beer melodies. This is the music I remember from back home. Every Saturday morning, my dad used to take me to town with him. The stops were reliable as Tinkers to Evers to Chance. Barber shop to bank to tavern. He’d fill my hands with quarters that I could squander on skee ball and the juke box.

Stuart reminds us that the best music can be the most simple. It’s not lonely music — it’s lonesome. There’s a beautifully nostalgic difference. “A Song of Sadness,” featuring vocals from Lorrie Carter Bennett (yes, of that Carter family) brings back memories of Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette.

But Stuart can’t help himself from going on a tear on a couple of songs. “Hollywood Boogie,” a reference to Nashville as country’s version of star-studded and superficial Hollywood, reminds us of just how fast Stuart’s fingers can move.

When I saw Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives in concert, I was as blown away by Stuart’s command of the guitar as I was when I saw Eric Clapton or Ricky Skaggs. I happened to get a chance to meet him after the show. I told him, “Marty Stuart, I just love you.” And his response was as back home as you can get: “Well, Darlin’, bless your heart, I just love you, too. Give me a hug.”

What I truly love isn’t Stuart himself, but rather the tradition, the honoring of legends, the foundation that stays strong amid a nanosecond world. It’s a slow-moving game that whiles away summer nights in a luxuriously languishing harmony of many players, each spotlighted but somehow blending together. It’s fabulous and superlative and like sliding into back-home.

By Emily Tuttle

Great American Country

April 13, 2012

The honky tonk gods of Nashville’s famed Lower Broadway have long guided Marty Stuart’s way. Throughout his career, which in 2012 finds the singer/songwriter celebrating 40 years in Nashville, Marty has stood firm with a blend of traditional country and rockabilly that echoes the heartache pouring out of Music City’s world famous strip. On Marty’s new record, Nashville Vol. 1: Tear The Woodpile Down due in stores April 24, the 53-year-old Grand Ole Opry member shuns modern trends for a soul-bearing collection that is as true and honest as the lonesome realities faced by Lower Broad’s hillbilly forefathers.

The overall sound of Nashville Vol. 1 can be described as retro in that twang-heavy guitars, gunfire percussion and thumping bass unapologetically chug along while a steel guitar cries out. Marty’s longtime touring band, The Fabulous Superlatives, back up the singer here with an energy and familiarity that only a seasoned group of players can provide. While the scorched fretboards of the instrumental jam “Hollywood Boogie” show off Marty & Co.’s musical prowess, it’s the album’s powerful and vivid lyrical imagery that remains long after the songs end.

On the stomping ¾ time “Sundown In Nashville,” music and voice are locked together as Marty addresses the ‘dark side of fame.’ Pulling no punches, he sings, Each evening at sundown in Nashville, they sweep broken dreams off the street, when discussing the good with the bad of going for broke. On the steady “Going, Going, Gone,” a chorus of layered harmonies opens the track before a slight tempo shift cues Marty’s deeply personal voice admitting discontent directly related to his own choices. There’s just one thing that I know about tomorrow, Marty sings through the chorus, When it’s all said and done I’ll be alone. There’s no sugarcoating here. It’s classic country filled with brutal realism.

Throughout the record, guests such as Nashville musicians Buck Trent, Kenny Lovelace and Robbie Turner join Marty to add their talents. The project closes with a pair of songs featuring the bloodline of country music royalty. Lorrie Carter Bennett of The Carter Family adds bittersweet harmonies on the tender “A Song of Sadness” while Hank Williams III duets on “Picture from Life’s Other Side.” The latter is a country classic originally written and recorded by the late Hank Sr. that Marty and Hank III have performed live together previously. In ways a tribute to Hank Sr., the gritty acoustic song is an impressive reminder of the power of words through its unflinching everyday truths.

Marty wrote the majority of material himself and also serves as the project’s producer. This level of control, along with the support of an indie label, allows for freedom in regards to such decisions as opening the record with, and titling it after, a song with political undertones. On “Tear The Woodpile Down,” Marty sings aggressively, Taxpayer dollar ain’t worth a dime / Government’s got us in a bind/ Think I’ll run for President / And I won’t have to pay no rent. Though this is the only time Marty gets political, and even here it’s subtle in relation to the entire song, it’s yet another example of Marty’s unwavering approach to his art. Nashville Vol. 1 is a strong and authentic collection of country music dealing directly with blue collar values and leaves only one question after it’s done – when do we get to hear ‘Volume 2’?

Key tracks – “Sundown In Nashville.” “Picture from Life’s Other Side,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “The Lonely Kind”

By Daryl Addison


May 7, 2012

A masterful country album from Marty Stuart

Marty Stuart is a living, breathing link to the heart and soul of country music. His voice is authentic, his songs weave new threads into the existing historical tapestry, and his band is as sharp as the Buckaroos in their prime. This latest album demonstrates how strongly Stuart connects to the headwaters and multiple tributaries that have flowed in and out of country’s main branch, with music that is possessed by Bakersfield sting, Memphis rockabilly, Nashville steel, Bluegrass harmonies and Appalachian strings. It’s a fitting follow-up to 2010’s Ghost Train, and a nice addition to a string of albums, starting with 1999’s thematic The Pilgrim, that’s included country, gospel, bluegrass and honky-tonk.

It’s no accident that Stuart’s pictured playfully taunting a young lion cub on the album cover, as he was that very cub upon arriving in Nashville in 1972. He may have grown into the role of historian and elder statesmen, but his intellectual knowledge of country music never obscures his first-hand experience. The wide-eyed desire he originally brought to Nashville is still evident as the band blazes through the title track. Their frenetic twin guitar lead, twanging steel and faith-tinged backing vocals are as hot as the song’s beat, and they step it up another notch for the Larry Collins-Joe Maphis styled guitar duet “Hollywood Boogie.” Across electric waltzes, steel ballads and country rockers, Stuart sings of the hard climb, heartbreak, failure and fleeting success that greet Nashville transplants.

Stuart threads his theme through both his originals and a couple of covers. The wizened “A Matter of Time” might have originally been about a lost lover, but here it reads about the loss of a muse, and a solo cover of Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton’s “Holding on to Nothing” suggests a disillusioned singer letting go of his Nashville dream. Stuart characterizes his arrival in Music City as the downbeat of his life’s journey, but that trip hasn’t always been a straight line. Stuart faced down his demons more than a decade ago, but he still carries the pain of wasted years having once turned Nashville into a lonely place. The album closes on a somber note with Stuart and Hank III joining together for Hank Sr.’s “Picture from Life’s Other Side.”

Over the past decade, Stuart’s music has glowed ever brighter with a renewed fealty to country’s roots, the hard-earned perspective of a 40-year career and the gathered knowledge of an historian. He’s surrounded himself with likeminded players who’ve got the background and chops to cut loose without cutting themselves off from tradition. There’s precious little music like this being made anywhere, but particularly little in Nashville’s recording studios. As Stuart writes in his superb liner notes, “Today, the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music.” The marketing suits on music row may not care, but playing country music is just what Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives do, and do very, very well.

Los Angeles Times

April 24, 2012

Marty Stuart's 17th studio album is full of traditional country music. He's a country music legend who can be described as a honky-tonk heavyweight, at the age of 53. The album is full of twang heavy guitars and thumping bass with backup singers. On the album, he teams up with other country royalty, Lorrie Carter Bennett of The Carter Family and Hank Williams III.

By Ann Powers

Music and Musicians

June 27, 2012

Over the course of his four decades in Nashville, Marty Stuart has transformed from 13-year-old bluegrass prodigy to radio hit-maker and finally elder statesman. He’s one of the genre’s protectors now, amassing a museum’s worth of memorabilia, hosting his own TV variety show and championing a sound that’s all but vanished from mainstream country. Nashville, Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down pays tribute to the traditional music of the ’60s and early ’70s without ever sounding stale. Thanks must go in part to Stuart’s band, the Fabulous Superlatives, who are firmly on point throughout the record (especially the breakneck instrumental “Hollywood Boogie”). Covers like “Picture From Life’s Other Side,” recorded with Hank Williams III, fit comfortably next to well-written originals like “Truck Drivers’ Blues,” reminiscent of Del Reeves’ trucker hits, and “A Matter of Time,” a pedal-steel-laden heartbreaker that sounds as though it’s been marinating in tears and spilled whiskey.

By Juli Thanki

Music News Nashville

April 8, 2012

Marty Stuart has been making great music – either with acts such as Johnny Cash and Lester Flatt or on his own for over four decades now, and just like a fine wine –he gets better with age. His latest album, a follow-up to his excellent Ghost Train, puts his love of traditional Country music on display for all the world to see – with a little bit of energy that will no doubt make it appeal to a younger demographic, as well.

The introductory title track is an old-fashioned sing-a-long with the Fabulous Superlatives, complete with a guest cameo from the legendary Buck Trent. The one-time Wagonmaster banjoist also appears on Marty’s take on the Porter / Dolly classic “Holding On To Nothing,” which makes for a great retro sound.

It’s another instrument, the steel, that comes into play on the melancholy “Sundown In Nashville,” a cut about all the dreamers that come to Davidson County – with some never making it. Gary Carter’s steel licks – here and on the Haggard-sounding “Going, Going, Gone,’ are definitely a highlight of the album.

Stuart has always been able to go from fun to serious on a dime, and he does so here. “Hollywood Boogie” is exactly what you think it would be, and on “Truck Drivers’ Blues,” the Superlatives show themselves to be the coolest Honky-Tonk rock stars on earth!

But, Stuart turns the emotional dime on cuts like “The Lonely Kind” and ‘A Song Of Sadness,” both of which have that melodramatic ‘Nashville Sound’ style that Stuart grew up listening to. There are many different musical roads, and many different styles represented on this disc, all of which resonate with that old-time sparkle. If only all of Country Music was this fun nowadays!

By Chuck Dauphin

Nashville Scene

April 26, 2012

Stuart's latest — which arrives precisely 40 years after his first visit to Nashville, and 30 years after his initial album for Sugar Hill, his label home once again — showcases the personalities of the players, an anomaly in current star-vehicle country recording. Plus, the tracks sound spiky and vivid, rather than compressed into sleek, dense, three-minute blocks, and the taut, twangy licks bring no shortage of freewheeling energy to the proceedings.

There's the subject matter, too. Amid the heartbroken honky-tonk blues numbers, Stuart keeps an eye out for the sort of disenfranchised souls Johnny Cash used to sing about — on this occasion, one of them being a long-haul truck driver. In another forward-to-the-past twist, the Connie who makes an appearance in "Truck Drivers' Blues" — and to whom he's married — is none other than Connie Smith, member of the Country Music Hall of Fame's Class of 2012.

Stuart the institutional historian and DIY showman has settled on his mission statement, and he repeats it at the close of Woodpile's liner notes: "Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tenn., is play country music." This comes several pages after the black-and-white cover image of him, in his dark Western suit, simultaneously raising a guitar and toying with a tiger cub, with a cross, a flag and a hay bale for a backdrop.

By Jewly Hight

No Depression

April 24, 2012 /
May 24, 2012

Marty Stuart's music is everything country should be.

The minute I put his just-released album Tear the Woodpile Down into my player, I felt as if I had come home. There's something about the instrumentation -- especially the lush steel guitar, banjo and of course Stuart's crisp, yet twangy emotion-laden vocals, that touched my heart.

I'm not a truck driver, don't regularly have lonely times, and am not searching for love, so why is it that I could easily imagine myself in every song?

Let's start with the song "Going, Going, Gone," that kicks off with some of the finest steel guitar I've heard, well, maybe ever, and moves into Stuart's passionate, sincere lyrics about heartache as he reflects on the years he wasted.

It'd be easy to credit Stuart's years playing with greats including Lester Flatts, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for his virtuosity as a songwriter, player and producer. But there's a lot more to the story.

Anyone who reads Stuart's linear notes about his excitement in coming to Nashville so he could "live in the land of rhinestone suits" and immediately pictures Porter Wagoner, will know exactly what I mean.

The true country troubadours, in my mind anyway, were those who didn't just drive by life but dove in and dissected it. Then they made listeners feel as if they had experienced it, too. That's just what Stuart does in "Going, Going, Gone" as he recalls a misspent youth and the lonely times that followed.

In the same way, Stuart digs way beneath the surface when he talks about a true love "leaving you for someone better," in "A Matter of Time" or talks about the painful end of a relationship on "Holding on to Nothing."

So did Stuart live these experiences? Did his friends? It doesn't matter. What's important is that he makes the listener feel as if he or she lived it. Or sometimes wish they had.

Not that Stuart makes the album a three-hankie experience. The bittersweet music in some of the songs is interspersed with plenty of instrumental joy such as on the dueling strings on the instrumental "Hollywood Boogie." Don't think country musicians are virtuoso players? Listen to this song and report back.

And for pure entertainment, don't miss "Truck Driver's Blues," in which Stuart name checks his much-lauded country singer wife Connie Smith. Pure delight.

In a recent conversation I had with Stuart, he talked about how country musicians were often thought of as lesser than pop and rock musicians so they moved their sound more toward the rockin' popular tunes. In doing so, many seemed to abandon country's unique tones.

Lucky for fans that Marty Stuart and some others have never stopped playing for what Haggard called "the forgotten people" -- traditional country fans.

By Nancy Dunham

Marty Stuart doesn't have a problem with being over the top. From his souped- up hair to his Nudie suits studded with enough rhinestones to make rassler Ric Flair jealous, to naming his band the Fabulous Superlatives, Stuart walks the walk and talks the talk the way country stars are spozed to. Thing is, he can back it up.

The Superlatives are indeed fabulous, the finest band in country for sure and a top contender for the best in virtually every other genre you can think of should they set their minds to it. Superlative bandleader/guitarist Kenny Vaughan has the fastest fingers in the business, honing his chops in jazz and punk before settling in Nashville in '87 working with artists including Rodney Crowell Patty Loveless and Lucinda Williams, helping Stuart start the Superlatives in '01. He also provided the superlative guitar on Sam Lewis' debut record.

Stuart has the swagger and the chops down pat after a lifetime in the business starting at the age of 14 when he became a full fledged working pro playing mandolin in Lester Flatt's band. Stuart's fleet fingered picking on mandolin and guitar propels many a breakneck tune in his live Saturday night show on RFD-TV and on his new record. And when you hook him up with electric banjo inventor and lightning fast 11-year Porter Wagoner band vet banjoist Buck Trent and put Vaughan behind them blazing away as well, Tear the Woodpile Down is as much a description of what's going on as a song title.

Stuart wrote 6 of the ten songs on the record. “Truck Driver's Blues” is right up there with the best of the classic Dave Dudley big rig driving songs, even managing to work wife Connie (Smith's) name in as the name painted on his truck. Stuart keeps honky-tonk time with his relentless mandolin chop, breaking free with a string bustin'-wriggle once in a while.

But a couple he didn't write are standouts as well. “Sundown In Nashville” sounds like classic Buck Owens with Stuart describing Nashville as “ a country boy's Hollywood” that gets lonely at sundown when “they sweep broken dreams off the street.”

Hank Sr.'s “Picture From Life's Other Side” just punches you right in the gut. Stuart pulls off the difficult task of not making the song sound hokey as the degenerate gambler who had the temerity to hock poor ole dead mama's ring in a poker game drops dead hisself as he throws it into the pot. Hank 3 adds some authentic hillbilly heartbreak, trading off verses and harmonizing with Stuart.

This is a real country record in an industry that desperately needs more of the real thing. Stuart's up for it- now all that's left is for the rest of 'em to come to their senses.

By Grant Britt

Jonathan Pappalardo

April 25, 2012

Of Nashville, Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down Marty Stuart says, “This record is the subtotal of a 40 year journey. It represents most everything I love about Country Music.” And that’s what Stuart has created, a historical document embodying the past while transporting it into the present.

Picking up where 2010’s Ghost Train – The Studio B Sessions left off, Tear The Woodpile Down follows in Stuart’s tradition of marrying newly written originals with well-chosen covers and instrumentals. He once again displays his acute skill of writing music that sounds and feels decades old while his band, His Fabulous Superlatives, have never played with such heightened intensity.

The Superlatives proficiency as a tight unit, due to recording the album with Stuart in the same room, is perfectly displayed on the title track, a honky-tonk number distinctive for its muscular guitar, strong harmonies, and banjo work by the legendry Buck Trent. “Tear The Woodpile Down” is easily the coolest sounding song on the album; a convergence of honky-tonk meets country rock that never looses traditional sensibilities yet feels modernistic in execution.

But the track’s selling point is the memorably comedic lyric. “Tear The Woodpile Down” details the trouble a man finds himself in while on the town with a gal – a night in jail and time before an unsympathetic judge. The sense that it doesn’t take itself too seriously only adds to the overall enjoyment of the story.

Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives also cut loose on “Hollywood Boogie” the sole instrumental among the ten tracks. Like “Tear The Woodpile Down,” “Hollywood Boogie” is brawny in nature but acts as a showcase for the band’s playing prowess, most notably Harry Stinston’s mesmerizing drum work. It’s rare in modern music to find this talented a band and “Hollywood Boogie” is a wonderful showcase for the breadth of their abilities.

In keeping with Stuart’s finest work, the heart and soul of Nashville, Volume 1 comes when he celebrates the past, something he does for most of this project. A favorite of his for years, Dwayne Warwick’s “Sundown In Nashville” first appeared on his 2003 album Country Music with far more distracting instrumentation. This mix is much more tasteful, allowing the cautionary tale painting Music City as the land of broken dreams (“A Country Boy’s Hollywood”), to breathe and sink in with the listener.

Stuart also resurrects two country classics – Jerry Chestnut’s “Holding On To Nothin’ ” which Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton brought to #7 in 1968 and “Pictures From Life’s Other Side,” A Hank Williams, Sr classic written as a Luke The Drifter poem.

“Holding On To Nothin’ ” succeeds because Stuart, a fan of the song from The Porter Wagoner Show, remains faithful to Wagoner and Parton’s record down to bringing in Trent to reprise his banjo work. Stuart’s version, though, has one key difference – he makes the guitar more prominent and in turn modernizes the overall feel of the song.

In contrast, “A Picture From Life’s Other Side” has had so many versions over the years; it’s hard to pick a definitive one. Doesn’t matter, though, as the inclusion of Hank III makes this essential listening, with his pure and raw vocal drawing me in. It’s my favorite song from Tear The Woodpile Down and one of the top album tracks of 2012 thus far because of his stunning guest vocal.

Another standout is “A Song of Sadness,” written by Stuart for Lorrie Carter Bennett (Anita Carter’s daughter and Mother Maybelle Carter’s granddaughter) to sing with him. Another smart choice on his part, her vocal adds extra flavor and creates beautiful contrast to his deeper vocal tones. But the framing of their voices against the backdrop of pedal steel is the real selling point. The mix is so effortless it feels like he has sung with her all is life.

The final resurrection comes in the form of a trucker’s anthem, a seemingly lost ideal in modern country music. “Truck Drivers Blues,” which contains the records only mention of Connie Smith, celebrates the truck driving lifestyle with radiant authenticity. Another fantastic catchy sing-a-long, it comes complete with a mandolin heavy arrangement that helps it stand out for more than just extremely clever lyrics alone.

Tear The Woodpile Down also includes three Stuart originals (“Matter Of Time,” “Going, Going Gone,” and “The Lonely Kind”) that bear trademark Nashville Sound ideals. “A Matter of Time” glides along with a gorgeous guitar riff that repeats throughout, “Going, Going, Gone” mixes pedal steel and electric guitar with an effortless lyric that slithers off the tongue, and “The Lonely Kind” has a moody vibe to distinguish itself from the pack; almost reminiscent of Gary Allan’s “Smoke Rings In The Dark” or classic Roy Orbison.

Overall, I’ve rarely heard a ten-track album this perfectly constructed in my more than fifteen years of listening to country music. While additional songs and a guest vocal by Smith would’ve enhanced the listening experience, it’s hard to improve upon what Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives have created here. To call Tear The Woodpile Down astonishing would be an understatement. It’s a record for the ages, essential listening for anyone with a love of country music.

Philadelphia Inquirer

April 28, 2012

Since he teamed up in 2001 with the Fabulous Superlatives — guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson, bassist Paul Martin — Marty Stuart has been making the best music of his career, even if the onetime “Hillbilly Rock” champion is no longer having hits as he did in the ’90s. He continues on that roll here.

As Stuart puts it in the liner notes: “Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee, is play country music.” OK, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but make no mistake: This is country music, no holds barred, from the propulsive twang of the title track to the aching balladry of “A Matter of Time” and the hot picking of the instrumental “Hollywood Boogie.” And the material matches the excellence of the music. Stuart wrote seven of the 10 numbers, augmented by the cautionary tale “Sundown at Nashville,” the honky-tonk lament “Holding on to Nothing,” and Hank Williams’ “Pictures From Life’s Other Side,” on which the always history-minded Stuart duets with Hank III.

By Nick Cristano

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

May 3, 2012

"I came to Nashville from the land of Jimmie Rodgers, looking for a place, a place to belong inside the world of country music," Marty Stuart writes in this album's liner notes. It's true. Forty years ago this year, the 14-year old Mr. Stuart arrived on a Greyhound bus from Mississippi. As mandolinist for traditional bluegrass star Lester Flatt's band, he grew close to Johnny Cash and other revered performers before hitting his stride in the '90s with "Hillbilly Rock" "Tempted" and other hits.

Mr. Stuart long ago established himself as a keeper of the traditional country flame in both his solo work and collaborations with his wife, '60s Nashville icon Connie Smith. Tear the Woodpile Down, like Mr. Stuart's other recent albums with his touring band, offers a high-energy blend of classic country and originals that honor tradition while avoiding dry, clinical imitations. No better example is his aggressive spin on the traditional title song, which includes Porter Wagoner banjoist Buck Trent, who also appears on "Holding On to Nothin'," a 1968 hit duet for Mr. Wagoner and Dolly Parton.

Mr. Stuart's mastery of the obscure emerges on an eerie revival of Carl and Pearl Butler's forgotten '60s ballad "Sundown in Nashville" with the memorable line "they sweep broken dreams off the street." The blues-swaddled original "A Matter of Time" features Kenny Lovelace, Jerry Lee Lewis' longtime fiddler. "Hollywood Boogie," a guitar workout, reveals Mr. Stuart and Superlatives guitarist Kenny Vaughan paying homage to an earlier classic, the Joe Maphis-Larry Collins instrumental "Hurricane." He bestows Bakersfield twang on "Going Going Gone" and filters "Truck Driver's Blues" through a smart blend of bluegrass and chugging Chuck Berry rhythms.

"I established my perimeters somewhere between the traditional values of Lester Flatt's camp and the (cocaine) chopping mirror in Waylon (Jennings') dressing room," Mr. Stuart comments. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the final number, "Picture From Life's Other Side," a duet with the hard-living Hank Williams III, whose equally hard-living grandfather, Hank Sr. wrote it. It's true Mr. Stuart isn't testing any limits here. That's never been his goal. Nonetheless, his fresh, compelling approach proves that tradition needn't sound outdated. [4 Stars]

By Rich Kienzle


May 7, 2012

Country music prodigy Marty Stuart has just released his 17th studio album. After 40-plus years in the business, the former boy wonder goes back to a style made popular before he was born or when he was just a youth—what’s known as Classic Country. Think of the Grand Old Opry of the ‘50s and ‘60s for comparison. The nine original songs contain echoes of popular Nashville trucker songs, weepers, and rave-ups, and the tenth is a cover of “Picture From Life’s Other Side”, famously recorded by Hank Williams. Stuart has grandson Hank III join in with him in as a nod to authenticity.

Stuart has recently said in interviews that when he first started out, mixing rock and country together was a radical act. Now, he says, the opposite is true. Performing country straight is now revolutionary as mainstream country music has incorporated rock. One rarely hears any pure country music. Stuart has a good point, and the ten songs here sound as far away from what gets played on commercial country radio today as progressive rock once did in the sixties.

The music Stuart emulates was once known for its conservative conformity and sanctimonious values. However, in this incarnation the opposite is true. By performing in past musical styles that have gone out of fashion, Stuart reveals the worth of simple singing and playing as an expression of rural humanity. The characters are lost in a world in which broken dreams are swept up every night in Nashville, where loneliness is the norm, and driving a truck hard and lonesome work. And despite modern trappings, some things don’t change, such as the competitive nature of the music business, solitude and isolation, and partying to the sound of fast-string pickin’.

Speaking of pickin’, Stuart is joined by his band the Fabulous Superlatives (Buck Trent, Kenny Lovelace, and Robbie Turner). Anyone who has seen the Marty Show on the road in recent years knows just how good these guys are. They know how to tear up the joint one minute, and put a tear in your beer the next. While the album is a short 32-plus minutes long, it seems even shorter because the instrumentalists can play so fast when needed, such as on the title track or the instrumental “Hollywood Boogie”.

This is country, though, and it’s the slow songs that shine the brightest. For example, the languid pedal steel and fiddle on “A Matter of Time” allows Stuart to round his vocals around the vowels of the lyrics and add a sadness to the inflection that could not be properly conveyed in an accelerated manner. And “The Lonely Kind” is downright operatic (if not horse opera) in its evocation of love lost.

Nashville, Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down takes one back to yesteryear. This was a time when country music was often associated with racial inequality, strictly regulated sexual behavior, and mindless jingoism. This has given the music of that era a bad name. Stuart’s own professional career started shortly afterwards in the early seventies, but he shows us that country music was never that simple or simple minded, and the biggest rebellions were of a personal nature. [8 out of 10 stars]

By Steve Horowitz


May 7, 2012

Marty Stuart's career has had many interesting paths. from spending his teenage years as a mandolin player in Lester Flatt's band to a solo career which had him rockabilly his way to the top of the charts long enough to have a Greatest Hits record for MCA Nashville to his re-birth as the hillbilly godfather that he's now become, the keeper of the traditional country music flame.

2010's Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions found Stuart returning to his roots but Nashville, Volume I: Tear The Woodpile Down finds the magnetic star making honest to god country music that for the longest time dominated the country music landscape. The title track certainly serves as a nice metaphor to breaking down the pop and rock grasp of country music has on country music, even if the song itself is about breaking down a woodpile (wall) to start over anew.

While Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives band certainly are country, they're not making acoustic country music. This is a completely modern brand of traditional country and the Owens-inspired "Sundown In Nashville" which talks about the realities of heartbreak for cowboy bands in Nashville while "Hollywood Boogie" recalls the time when bands were able to fill each album with fantastic instrumentals.

"A Matter of Time" and "Holding On To Nothing" both find Stuart and company making compelling tear-stained ballads while "Truck Driver's Blues" brings us the classic country trucker song over an ingaging rootsy melody which showcases Stuart's mandolin-playing chops formed in the early years of his life.

The album features guests Buck Trent, Kenny Lovelace, and fiddle maestro Hank Singer on a few tracks while also closing out with two tracks which feature country music bloodlines as deep as the genre itself, Lorrie Carter Bennett from The Carter Family's lineage and Hank3, the grandson of Hank Williams Sr [Jr's son] and a spitting image of his gone-too-soon Grandpa). Both songs serve as great tributes to country music's legacy with the last song "Pictures From Life's Other Side" being penned by Hank Williams and Hiram Hank Williams.

Nashville, Volume I: Tear The Woodpile Down certainly does showcase an artist at the ready to Tear the Woodpile that has become modern country music. He even states in the record's impressive liner notes that the "main musical difference that I see in now and when I first came to Nashville is, back then it seemed the most outlaw thing you could possibly do around here was take country music and blow it up into rock & roll. Mission accomplished! Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music. So therefore I say, "Tear the Woodpile Down."

It only takes one artist to start a movement and perhaps Marty Stuart is that man and Nashville, Volume I: Tear The Woodpile Down is his mission statement of purpose and what a glorious purpose it is. [4 Stars]

By Matt Bjorke

San Francisco Chronicle

April 24, 2012

Performing traditional country with roots in the 1960s and 1970s, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives make for a Fab Four.

On Nashville Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down, Stuart sings about topics typical to the genre — loneliness, shattered dreams, heartache, trucking and fratricide. But the musical execution is the kind that makes jaws drop, whether the tune's a slow waltz or frenetic instrumental.

The title cut that opens the set is a showcase of lickety-split picking, and "Hollywood Boogie" likewise features the sort of guitar playing that take years to learn, condensed into a 90-second sprint. Also exhilarating is the unplugged "Truck Driver's Blues," driven by Stuart's mandolin, while ringing pedal steel guitar and airtight harmony vocals make "Going, Going, Gone" memorable.

The 10-tune set is over in only 32 minutes, but many listeners will likely hit the repeat button.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The band dials down the flashy playing on "The Lonely Kind," which instead benefits from a lovely melody and a sparse arrangement, where even the tap of a tambourine hits hard. [2-1/2 Stars]

By Steven Wine (AP)

April 24, 2012

Whatever your country music question is, Marty Stuart is the answer.

Are you looking for more twang? Look to Marty Stuart. Do you want music that respects the roots? You want Marty Stuart. Are you searching for that one artist that can appeal to the young, to the old, to the hardcore country fans, to fans of country from the outside looking in, and whose appeal spans from gospel fans to punk kids? Then Marty Stuart is your man.

Marty Stuart is on an amazing roll ladies and gentlemen. What he’s doing right now with lead guitar player “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan and The Fabulous Superlatives is stuff that legends are made of. You know those periods in an artists’ career that you look back on like they can’t do wrong, churning out amazing songs and albums one after another? Hank Jr. from Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound to The Pressure Is On, Willie & Waylon after they’d shaken loose from the grips of RCA in the mid 70's. That’s the kind of epic and influential period were in the midst of right now with Marty Stuart, and what a blessing it is to realize this and to be able to experience it all in the present instead of trying to relive it through the past.

Everything is firing on all cylinders, from Marty’s live show, to The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV, to his last album The Ghost Train, to now Nashville Vol. 1 – Tear The Woodpile Down. Say what you want about the Marty Stuart of the past, and who knows what the future will hold, but right now, as simply as it can be said, Marty Stuart is single handedly saving country music.

And this is no accident. Oh no. Marty knows exactly what he’s doing, and he knows exactly why it needs to be done. At some point he identified the need and then decided to roll up his sleeves, reach down deep into the roots of the music, and resurrect them with such fervor that nobody could ever accuse the music of being boring or outmoded or in need of progress.

First and foremost this is guitar music. Over-twangy, too-loud, sexy, dirty, evil, beautiful, in-your-face, unapologetic guitar music punching and kicking its way into you by-God American country soul until sitting down or standing still is no option. The dueling Telecaster work between Marty and Kenny Vaughan is something so tasteful and technically superior, it transcends the entire country genre to elevate these two men and the groove they evoke into the guitar god stratus.

Songs like “Tear The Woodpile Down”, the instrumental “Hollywood Boogie”, and the mandolin-driven “Truck Drivers’ Blues” (which you have to listen closely for the Mick Jagger-like “Uh!” in the intro) have the stones enough to make country converts out of rock fans. Marty’s gospel fan club may not want to hear it characterized like this, but there’s sex embedded in this music from its swagger. Its got balls, and don’t be thrown off by the silver hair, Marty brings a young, enthusiastic approach, winding you up in the intros, and then letting you go like a spinning top in a swirl of dizzying, Jerry Reed-style close guitar harmonies and hot lick tradeoffs.

But all this is just noise without the gift of good songwriting. Even the slow songs bring such passion, conveyed in the studio in no less measure than they would be live. That is what you get in songs like the subtle, but stabbing indictment of Music City “Sundown in Nashville” written by Dwayne Warwick, and sad songs like the Stuart-penned run that takes you toward the end of the album from “Going, Going, Gone” to “A Song of Sadness”. I can’t help but hear a little of the Dwight Yoakam, West Coast approach in these songs, and in the tear-jerking, swinging waltz “A Matter of Time”, the usually-composed and perfect Marty Stuart let’s his voice crack with emotion in one of the most stirring vocal performances I’ve heard from the man. With every one of The Fabulous Superlatives boasting superlative abilities at composing and performing harmonies, the only way to characterize the caliber of vocal performances on this album is “unfair.”

Something else remarkable about Nashville Vol. 1 is how similar it is to his previous Ghost Train. Traditionally this is an unwise decision, but when you’re in such a groove and hitting on all cylinders, why shake it up? At some point the need for change will present itself, but for right now ride that groove until it’s worn out. What Marty has found with The Fabulous Superlatives is too good not to.

One of the great things about Marty Stuart is that he can be all things to all people. The gospel crowd can’t help but love him. Mainstream and young fans can’t help but pick up on the guitar work if they’re exposed to it. And even the punk and heavy metal country converts can find what they’re looking for here. Marty helps point them the way by including Hank Williams III on the final track, “Picture From Life’s Other Side” written by Hank Sr. A perfect gospel tune sung with such heart and grace by both men, it chills your bones with the stark, ancient country language portraying a haunting, unveiled moral. Even without the loud Tele or the original songwriting that defines most of this album, this might be one of the album’s best tracks.

But let me waste no more time slaving away with mortal words trying to describe this music, just go listen. Get this album, listen to it loud and frequently, and save your country soul.

Thank God for Marty Stuart! (Please, somebody put that on a T-shirt. I’d buy two.)

Two guns way up!

By Kyle Coroneos

Slant Magazine

April 23, 2012

In the latter half of his career, Marty Stuart has positioned himself as one of the most vocal champions for traditional country music, carving out a comfortable niche for himself as one of Nashville's most historically minded artists and a fixture on the Grand Ole Opry stage. While there's certainly considerable value in Stuart's ability to preserve the genre conventions that so many of contemporary country music's biggest stars either routinely overlook or never knew existed in the first place, his aesthetic has become predictable.Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down is an expertly performed collection of traditional country songs that aren't substantively different from the music Stuart has been making for well over a decade now.

Taken entirely on its own merits, Tear the Woodpile Down is a fine album, as Stuart's albums always tend to be. The chicken-plucked Telecaster breaks on the title cut turn the song into an out-and-out romp, and Stuart gives a wry vocal performance that sells the song. "Hollywood Boogie," a brief instrumental, showcases Stuart's unimpeachable skill as a bandleader without becoming self-indulgent or overstaying its welcome. The brushed snares and heavy reverb in Stuart's production on "The Lonely Kind" give its minor-key, two-step arrangement a suitably haunted vibe. It's the kind of smart production choice that illustrates just how well Stuart understands when particular genre tropes are appropriate to a specific song, and most every track on Tear the Woodpile Down highlights Stuart's impressive know-how.

Thing is, Stuart has been playing this same hand since 1999's The Pilgrim, the album that marked a clear end to his more commercial period and began his full-on transformation into a historian. Genre formalism is all well and good when there's genuine creativity and exploration behind it, but Tear the Woodpile Down exposes the limitations of Stuart's hardline conservatism. From the heavy pedal steel and massive, belted-out chorus of "Holding on to Nothing," to the rote narrative of "Truck Drivers' Blues," there's precious little here in terms of material or production that Stuart himself, let alone the country music icons whose legacies he's looking to honor, hasn't already done countless times over.

The album's lone surprise is a collaboration with Hank III on a cover of "Picture from Life's Other Side." Though the recitation-type song isn't one of Hank Williams Sr.'s absolute finest, the duet works as a study in contrasting styles. It's fascinating to hear Hank III, whose best work both honors and challenges his grandfather's traditions, paired with Stuart, who does his damnedest to recreate music that sounds just like Hank Sr.'s, with the advantages of a modern recording studio. That Stuart is able to pull off that kind of mimicry so well is an impressive feat in and of itself, but bringing in someone like Hank III on Tear the Woodpile Down only reaffirms how much more exciting Stuart's output could be if he were to get back to making music that is more definitively his instead of being content to serve as Nashville's most high-profile curator.

By Jonathan Keefe

Sonoma Valley Sun

March 28, 2013

It seems that about every 10 to 15 years, country music goes through an evolutionary process and each time music fans scream that “country music” is not country music anymore. It happened in the early ‘60s when legendary record producers like Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins began experimenting with strings on records, pretty much taking the twang out of the tunes and making it (as they once called it) “cosmopolitan country.”

Singers like Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold were branded as renegades to the Nashville music community and trying to “crossover” to the pop charts. It happened again in the early ‘70s when pop diva Olivia Newton-John was named Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA awards in Nashville in 1974 just on the strength of her hit single “Please Mr., Please.” Then, the following year, John Denver was named Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s, which suggested to the old guard that Nashville was doomed once again.

It happened yet again in the early ‘80s, when the “Urban Cowboy” soundtracks made country music seem cool, but luckily, Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs came along and brought the music back toward the “traditional country” side of the business. George Strait helped in that cause as well, but there were still artists like Barbara Mandrell, Eddie Rabbit, Kenny Rogers, Dottie West and Mac Davis stretching the pop/country boundaries.

Even now, people are saying that today’s country music is pretty much watered down Southern Rock. Look at Toby Keith, Jason Aldean, Luke Byran, Kenny Chesney, and a host of others that are making rocking records nowadays. Their live performances are nothing short of rock concerts, with pyrotechnics, huge speaker banks and backing bands that play louder than The Who.

All that said, I am pleased to report that there are several ‘Keepers of the Flame’ holding on to the great traditions of country music. Two fairly recent album releases, from 2012, have an overall sound like it’s 1962 again. The first, by Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, is titled Nashville Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down. The other disc is by The Time Jumpers, an always evolving group of studio musicians and singers, and the group’s first studio release. Unfortunately, you will not hear these records on country radio stations.

Marty Stuart has been playing music professionally since he was 13 years old and joined legendary bluegrass pioneer Lester Flatt’s band. He then hooked up with Johnny Cash and toured constantly with Cash until the early ‘80s when he decided to step out on his own. Over the last 10 years, he made a series of excellent albums including The Pilgrim, as well as Badlands and Live at the Ryman, with his band The Fabulous Superlatives.

Nashville Vol. 1 is a brilliant album. Most everything was penned by Stuart and backed by his incredibly talented band. And since Marty knows everybody who ever sang or played a musical note, he invited a few close friends to join in, including Kenny Lovelace (longtime member of Jerry Lee Lewis’ band) on “A Matter of Time,” that sounds like something Jerry Lee would have recorded back in the late ‘70s. The great Buck Trent, former member of Porter Wagoner’s Wagon Masters and a “Hee-Haw” regular, tears it up on two tracks, “Tear the Woodpile Down” and “Holding on to Nothing.” Also stopping by the studio is a bit of country music royalty in the form of Lorrie Carter Bennett, granddaughter of Mother Maybelle Carter and daughter of Anita Carter (the Carter Sisters), harmonizing on “A Song of Sadness,” followed by Hank Williams III, adding his unique hillbilly vocals to the haunting “Picture From Life’s Other Side.”

The songs are brilliant, wrenching with crying, loneliness, heartbreak and pain all held together with incredible musicianship. An ode to the thousands who flock to Nashville to make it as a singer or songwriter, “Sundown in Nashville” tells of when“they sweep broken dreams off the streets.” “The Lonely Kind” with its Chris Isaac guitar feel coupled with tasty licks from Kenny Vaughn, invokes a real sense of pain, with a lyric like “Hearts ain’t nothin’ but sadness, Teardrops ain’t nothin’ but blue, Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin,’ It’s what’s left of me without you.”

The best part of it all is that the record has a feel like it was recorded in the early 1960’s around the time that Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Ray Price and others were creating country music masterpieces. If there’s a true caretaker of country music, it might be Marty Stuart.

By Mike Hyland

T-R News

May 4, 2012

For his new album, Marty Stuart went way back to the country for a varied and endlessly entertaining look at Old Nashville.

Kicking rowdy and hot with the title track, Stuart makes it clear this is a countrified country album, with its unabashed country roots showing in all their glory. The honky-tonk waltz, "Sundown in Nashville," is a perfect follow up, before Stuart and the boys throw in just about everything that made Nashville the American common man's Music City.

"Holding on to Nothing," "Truck Driver's Blues," "A Song of Sadness," "Going, Going, Gone" and Stuart's version of the Luke the Drifter classic, "Picture From Life's Other Side," along with some of his trademark hot picking, make for some refreshingly authentic country music, and it's so good to hear it done by someone who reveres authentic country music as much as Stuart.

Along with his road band, The Fabulous Superlatives, Stuart brings Buck Trent, Kenny Lovelace, Hank Williams III and Lorrie Carter Bennett along for the fun, and the fun never stops.

Good one! NEXT rating: A-

By D. Chance

Toronto Sun

May 20, 2012

Marty Stuart does not care for your newfangled Nashville ways. The veteran singer-guitarist and his Fabulous Superlatives continue their traditional ways on his 16th studio set, dishing out a half-hour of chicken-pickin’ Telecaster licks, lickety-split hillbilly boogie beats and old-school honky-tonkers about hard living, truck driving and life on the lonesome side. Hank done it this way. [3 out of 5 stars] Download: Tear the Woodpile Down; Hollywood Boogie

By Darryl Sterdan

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