Souls' Chapel

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Peter Guralnick
Harp Magazine

Sadly, for many secular artists, something like a DUI is worn as almost a badge of honor that they've officially made it to "bad boy" status. Not so with Marty Stuart. It was a turning point for him to go back to his roots -- his gospel bluegrass roots from being a 12-year old mandolin player with the Sullivan Family Singers -- and start living with his life on track. Getting Pops Staples' guitar from Mavis and Yvonne set it in stone. He said, "Gospel music should represent the truth. The truth is, the creative process of this record was stalled when I got arrested and sent to jail for DUI. I was so humiliated. I also felt powerless not being able to live out the message of what I was singing about here."

Marty went from singing Gospel songs on the bus while on tour to singing them on stage. And sing them he does! I've always liked Marty Stuart and this is one of his best releases, in my opinion. I'm not alone in that thought either. Publications from the secular to the urban gospel are hailing this as an absolute winner.

Think delta blues, meets Grand Ole Opry in an old-timey tent revival atmosphere and you'll begin to get the picture of this release. Stand out tracks include "Somebody Saved Me," "Lord, Give Me Just A Little More Time," "Way Down," "Come Into the House of the Lord," "The Gospel Story of Noah's Ark," "It's Time to Go Home" and "There's A Rainbow (At the End of Every Storm)".

My hat's off to Marty Stuart and his band - this release is awesome!

By Kim Jones

All Music Guide

September 1, 2005

On the surface, Marty Stuart's Soul's Chapel is a gospel album — but only on the surface. Certainly all of the tracks here, whether covers or originals — and the album is divided neatly between the two — the topical considerations come from the Southern church. Stuart has always been adventurous in reinterpreting the music he holds most dear, from bluegrass to honky tonk to rockabilly. His take on gospel is no less ambitious. Here, blues, soul, R&B, hard country, and early country-rockabilly — along with gorgeous four-part harmony — wend and wind around one another to create a tapestry so rich, so utterly full of honest emotion and joy, that it transcends the intended genre; not by subverting or bastardizing it, but by showing how gospel music is inherent in all of the other traditions that Stuart employs.

The album opens with Pops Staples' "Somebody Saved Me." The song is reverent, and contains gorgeous backing vocals provided by the Fabulous Superlatives (Harry Stinson, Brian Glenn, and Kenny Vaughan), while Stuart apes that snaky, spooky guitar Pops played. But this is no mere cover job — Stuart and friends bring out some of the bluesy wildness in the song without revving it up.

And speaking of blues, Stuart's cover of Albert Brumley's "Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time" contains the trademark guitar riff from "Baby Please Don't Go." Another high point is "Come into the House of the Lord," written by Stuart and Vaughan, which is just a stomping gospel rocker with swirling B3, twin guitars, and a snapping trap kit.

"It's Time to Go Home" is a rollicking rockabilly stomper that is equal parts Tommy Dorsey's gospel-vocal and Johnny Burnette's salacious wildness! "Move Along Train," written by Pops, includes a smoking guest appearance by Mavis Staples. and the read of Steve Cropper and William Bell's "Slow Train" is a soul masterpiece with a killer vocal by Stinson, supported by Barry Beckett's Hammond B3.

Stuart stands up to the classic material; he writes in the idiom, but with his own strengths at the fore — especially notable is "There's a Rainbow (At the End of Every Storm)."

This is one of, if not the, strongest outing of Stuart's career, and it not only pays homage to gospel music's rich and varied tradition, but adds to it.

By Thom Jurek

September 2005

In the grand tradition of the late Roebuck "Pops" Staples--patriarch of the Staple Singers, whose influence permeates this project--Marty Stuart's selection of classic and original spirituals is also his bluesiest release to date. Stuart's guitar carries the familiar Delta sting of his native Mississippi, as the harmony-laden choruses soar toward heaven. A revival of Staples's "Somebody Saved Me" sets the album-opening tone, while a duet with Mavis Staples on her father's "Move Along Train" provides the climactic epiphany. The vocal support of bandmate Harry Stinson--a drummer known as one of Nashville's finest high harmony singers--and the bedrock B-3 organ of Barry Beckett contribute to the music's saving grace. On "Way Down," Stuart sets an inspirational lyric to an insistent guitar progression that blues fans will recognize as "Baby, Please Don't Go," while "I Can't Even Walk (Without Holding Your Hand)" sounds like a timeless country waltz. Even those who don't share the faith will find it tough to resist the power and emotional purity of this music.

By Don McLeese

Associated Press

September 1, 2005

To tout Souls’ Chapel as the best gospel record this year gives it short shrift, because Marty Stuart’s latest work ranks with the best 2005 albums in any genre.

The songs shimmer, and not just because of the tremolo guitars. Stuart’s exploration of twangy, bluesy Delta gospel has produced 12 tunes filled with faith, love and humor that will play well even beyond the Bible Belt. Call it souls music.

The material is far from staid: One tune swings, another rocks, and “Move Along Train” (with guest Mavis Staples) does the bump and grind. The well-chosen covers include two Pops Staples compositions, a Steve Cropper-William Bell song and Albert E. Brumley’s 1958 gem, “Lord, Give Me Just A Little More Time.”

Just as inspired are the original tunes. The instrumental closing title cut features surf guitar, “Way Down” benefits from a “Green Onions”-style organ vamp, and “Come Into The House of the Lord” is elevated by a classic couplet: “In my dissipation, I had a revelation.” Putting “Souls’ Chapel” over the top are the vocals, with Stuart and his band producing four-part harmonies pure as a prayer.

Stuart makes a compelling case: Jesus loves you, so crank it up.

By Steven Wine

Barnes & Noble

Inspired by the spirit, sound, and style of the great Staple Singers, hillbilly rocker Marty Stuart takes the listener on a moving journey through dark valleys and to the top of the mountain on Souls' Chapel. Musically, the album is propelled by slinky juke-joint rhythms, insinuating shuffles, and soaring Delta gospel soul. The songs are a scintillating mix of originals and covers from the likes of gospel giant Alfred Brumley and Memphis soul masters Steve Cropper, William Bell, and, of course, "Pops" Staples. Stuart underscores the haunting mood of "Somebody Saved Me" with resonant, layered harmonies and minimalist guitar punctuations (on Pops's own guitar, no less) and demonstrates his band's versatility (or superlativity) with a sinewy version of "Move Along Train" (from the Staples' indispensable Freedom Highway), layering his ominously twanging guitar over a grinding rhythm section and some soul-shaking vocal interplay between Superlatives Harry Stinson and Brian Glenn; this sets up a star turn for guest Mavis Staples, who might be the voice of God, given the authority in her gutty, sensuous singing on this track. Whether it's the sturm-und-twang of the Stuart-penned call-and-response house wrecker "It's Time to Go Home," the tightly harmonized, soulful blend of voices on the solemn, vintage testimonial "The Unseen Hand," or the bluesy, small-combo stylings (and Stinson's pleading vocal) guiding "There's a Rainbow (At the End of Every Storm)," Souls' Chapel touches all the gospel bases on its way home -- in the sky, Lord, in the sky.

By David McGee

Boston Herald

December 23, 2005

This pair of albums makes it sadly clear why Marty Stuart can’t get arrested in Nashville these days: Music this smoothly nuanced can’t possibly compete with the two-dimensional pap Music City cranks out. The gospel album Souls' Chapel is enough to bring an atheist to Jesus with the power of its sleek playing, glorious harmonies and pungent mixture of country, blues and rock. And if the sad history of the Sioux is a little too big a subject for Stuart to bite off on Badlands without indulging in some speechifying, his intentions are good, and so are most of the tracks.

By Kevin R. Convey

CBN Music

Aside from having a cool band name, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives offer this blues/country medley that is southern comfort to the soul. Inspired by the Staple Singers as a child, you can hear the influences of the southern and black gospel as well as the blues legends in his downhome guitar licks. It kicks off with “Somebody Save Me” that has the Soggy Bottom Boys-esque harmonies with a lot of soul. It rocks on to the last song, which is the title track, where the guitar echos in a dream-like haze. Definitely for the blues lover in you. Album Highlights: “Souls’ Chapel,” “Lord Give Me Just a Little More Time,” and “I Can’t Even Walk” [4 stars]

By Jennifer E. Jones

CD Universe

Country star Marty Stuart's gospel album, Souls' Chapel, bears not the slightest whiff of dilettantism. Every cut shines with the intensity of Stuart's passion for both the sound and the message of gospel music. Half the tunes are originals, and half come from the old-school gospel playbooks of Pops Staples, Albert Brumley, et al., but they all boast an undeniable power. Utilizing classic vocal-harmony arrangements and a twangy, reverb-laden guitar once played by the late Staples himself, Stuart lovingly adds the touch of gritty blues that is at the heart of all the greatest gospel music. The results are a fair distance from what one might call "country," but they stay close to the heart of American roots music, and consequently remain right in line with Stuart's inclusive musical vision.

Christian Broadcasting Network

September 2005

Aside from having a cool band name, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives offer this blues/country medley that is southern comfort to the soul. Inspired by the Staple Singers as a child, you can hear the influences of the southern and black gospel as well as the blues legends in his downhome guitar licks. It kicks off with “Somebody Save Me” that has the Soggy Bottom Boys-esque harmonies with a lot of soul. It rocks on to the last song, which is the title track, where the guitar echos in a dream-like haze. Definitely for the blues lover in you. Album Highlights: “Souls’ Chapel,” “Lord Give Me Just a Little More Time,” and “I Can’t Even Walk.”

By Jennifer E. Jone

Christianity Today

August 2005

Sounds like … the country, blues, gospel, and rock intersection of Johnny Cash, the Staples Singers, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

At a glance … an impressive recreation of "Mississippi Gospel" with old and new songs that somehow sound timeless and personable without seeming clichéd or repetitive.

Considering the country superstar's reputation for partying and drinking over his 25-plus-year career, it's amazing that Marty Stuart is still making music—or kept his faith intact, for that matter. Yet once Mavis Staples bestowed upon him the famed guitar from her legendary father Pops Staples after a concert, Stuart knew he had to finish recording the gospel album he's always wanted to make.

At long last, Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives—unquestionably one of the coolest band names ever—have completed Souls' Chapel, the best Johnny Cash album that The Man in Black never made. Stuart describes it as Mississippi Gospel, the church music he heard on the radio growing up in the South during the '60s—an enjoyable fusion of classic American roots music: spirituals, blues, country, rock, and gospel. It's that place where the music of Cash, the Staples Singers, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack intersect. Though occasionally sparse and simple, Souls' Chapel is not an acoustic effort, grounded by a basic rock combo with B-3 organ, impressive vocal harmonies, and Stuart's warm electric guitar sound.

The album features two Staples Singers classics at the bookends—bluesy, nearly a cappella "Somebody Saved Me" and "Move Along Train," a duet with Mavis. Gorgeous renditions of "I Can't Even Walk" and "The Unseen Hand" are just as magical. But surprisingly, most of the album relies on Stuart originals, including bouncy "Way Down," soulful "There's a Rainbow," '50s-style rocker "It's Time to Go Home," and an epic retelling of Noah and the flood. It's a classic niche sound that requires an appreciation of Southern rock and gospel. Every song is an overt and straightforward expression of faith that somehow remains personable instead of clichéd or repetitive. Even if you haven't heard Stuart's past work, Souls' Chapel stands out as one of Stuart's best, because it's that excellent.

By Russ Breimeier

Common Ground Christian News

Souls' Chapel was recorded at Stuart's home, outside Nashville, in Hendersonville, Tennessee. His band, The Fabulous Superlatives, which include drummer Harry Stinson, bassist Brian Glenn, and guitarist Kenny Vaughan, along with a handful of other musicians, such as the drummer Chad Cromwell and Muscle Shoals-sired keyboardist and producer Barry Beckett. Stinson, Glenn and Vaughan also contribute background and lead vocals instead of their usual instrumental work.

What started out as singing gospel songs on the bands bus as they toured across the country turned into a Bluegrass and Country flavored Gospel, eleven-song project called Souls' Chapel, which is an effort that not only reflects superior musicianship but a mix of a few traditional favorites with a host of new originals.

The collection opens with "Somebody Saved Me," a Pops Staples composition that indicates at once how Stuart (singing in a naturally strong voice that conveys both authority and intimacy) along with the harmonizing that results in a moving and fresh number that will leave audiences inspired.

Another song on the project "Move Along Train," features a guest appearance and duet with Mavis Staples of the legendary Staples Singers and Stuart.

Other highlights on the project include the Albert E. Brumley penned "Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time," and the bluesy "Way Down," a Stuart-Stinson original, along with the double finale of Steve Cropper and William Bell's "Slow Train."

Souls' Chapel proves that the collection of songs goes beyond the traditional boundaries and fearlessly covers new territory. The project is an inspiring collection of songs that will offer hope to a wide-range of listeners.

By Ginny McCabe

Connecticut Now

September 8, 2005

Marty Stuart has the look and sound of an artist from a bygone era, which suits his commitment to maintaining the vitality of hillbilly rock `n' roll. The Mississippi native shifts gears to classic Southern gospel with remarkably true aim on Souls' Chapel.

The normally fiery Stuart avoids revival-style bursts in favor of a simple, contemplative approach to selling faith, but he creates sparks when he melds light harmonies and understated electric guitar texture in the stirring "The Unseen Hand."

The collection is rich with lustrous vocal harmonies. Nowhere are they sweeter than when Stuart pairs with guest Mavis Staples, who adds earthy power to father Roebuck "Pops" Staples' family heirloom, "Move Along Train." Stuart's blend of classics and classic-sounding new tunes such as the energetic "It's Time To Go Home" sport a healthy balance of reverence and fun, and in all cases sound like labors of love for everyone involved.

By Thomas Kintner

Country Music People

November 2005

Hard-rocking, guitar slinging country boy Marty Stuart, having been given the candy store of his own record label, has chosen for his first release to return to his roots and record a gospel album – he started out singing and playing bluegrass and gospel music with the Sullivans when he was just 12 years old.

Stuart’s name may be in capitals, but this really is a group effort with his Superlatives, Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Brian Glenn supporting, well, ... superlatively, and stepping up front on some tracks: Harry Stinson takes the lead on his co-write with Stuart, "Way Down," with its fabulous "Baby Please Don’t Go" feel, and again on the stately "Slow Train," Kenny Vaughan on his and Stuart’s joyful organ-led "Come Into The House Of The Lord," and Brian Glenn on a sweet and gentle rendition of "I Can’t Even Walk."

A rhythm’n’blues feel pervades the album. The uptempo tracks have, not unexpectedly, a terrific guitar-led groove while there’s a languid, soulful approach to the slower pieces.

The opener, Roebuck Staples’ "Somebody Saved Me," is given a barnstorming performance, with jaw-dropping four-part harm-onies over a deep, jangly, blues guitar. Indeed, the harmony work throughout the album is just wonderful.

Another outstanding perform-ance comes with "The Gospel Story Of Noah’s Ark," written by Stuart and the great Jerry Sullivan, telling the story of the flood over a compelling rhythm and riding out on a loose and rockin’ guitar solo.

It’s just not true that the devil has all the good music. I’ve always loved gospel, the passionate, bible thumping, testifying kind, and such powerful emotions often inspire great music. Souls’ Chapel is overflowing with both.

Marty Stuart has always been his own man, and always ready to champion and preserve the roots and history of country and bluegrass, even when stretching his own musical boundaries. His next release, Badlands, will focus on Native Americans and a third is planned to be a live bluegrass album. The thing is, you see, for Stuart it’s always been about the music, not the business. Now, if only more label bosses felt the same way.

By Julie Flaskett

Country Standard Time

September 2005

In a Nashville awash in cookie-cutter country, there are still artists out there like Marty Stuart who push boundaries and make great music in the process. This is a gospel album, but with a band that includes Kenny Vaughan and Harry Stinson, you know that there will be plenty of rocking along with the religion.

A tribute to deep southern gospel, the disc covers a lot of stylistic ground, from the hymn-like harmonies of "Somebody Saved Me" to a pair of Pops Staples tunes, and even one, "Slow Train," from famed session men Steve Cropper and William Bell.

This is the first in a trio of albums from Stuart that will touch on various aspects of southern culture, including a live bluegrass disc and a Native American tribute. Like the whip-em-into-a-frenzy sermons from the southern preachers that these songs evoke, however, this one will be a hard act to follow.

By Kevin Oliver

Detroit Free Press

September 4, 2005

It's a tale endearing enough for the movies: Country singer falls from grace in Nashville, reconnects with the black gospel music that haunted his Mississippi youth and translates it into a stunning career milestone that transcends time and cultural barriers. That's Marty Stuart's considerable accomplishment on Souls' Chapel, the first in a series of recordings the '90s country star plans to make in celebration of the South and its rich musical heritage.

Drawing on old material ("The Unseen Hand") and original new material that sounds old ("There's a Rainbow at the End of Every Storm"), Stuart pours on lots of lush church house harmonies and bluesy electric guitar to craft a project that is, at heart, a warm tribute to the Mississippi Delta and gospel music's renowned Staple Singers. "Somebody Saved Me," written in 1960 by Mississippi native Roebuck (Pops) Staples, opens the album, and daughter Mavis Staples shows up near the end to sing with Stuart on her late father's "Move Along Train." Everything in between is as moving, spirit-filled and mesmerizing as a Pentecostal revival meeting. Look for Souls' Chapel on plenty of best-of-'05 lists a few months from now. [4 out of 4 stars]

By Greg Crawford

Dirty Linen

A memorable and authentic voyage into the realm of Southern gospel.

Entertainment Weekly

September 9, 2005

Sweet and slow as molassess in January, Stuart's first gospel record is perfect for all your Sunday morning porch-rocking needs. He gets a hand up from the Staple Singers, opening with the stark, piercing harmonies of Pops' "Somebody Saved Me,"' then harnessing the blues of "Move Along Train" with Mavis. But it's Stuart's sleepy choirboy vocals on "I Can't Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)" that stick in the mind like a prayer.

By Whitney Pastorek

Freight Train Boogie

Marty Stuart has crafted a brilliant set of traditional and original gospel and spiritual songs that is highly entertaining. This is not country gospel but rather soul and blues-based gospel. Its like Stuart has gone back to his Mississippi heritage and unearthed some holy spirits. He owes more than a little debt to the great early albums by the Staple Singers. Marty even has “Pops” Staples' own spooky-sounding Telecaster for most of the songs. Then you got Mavis Staples lending her incredible pipes to “Move Along Train” and you're there, in the Promised Land. His “Fabulous” band must be praised also, from the tasty guitar of Kenny Vaughan to the fine tenor vocals of “Handsome” Harry Stinson. It ain't preachy, I promise. It's just fine and timeless music. And believe me, you're gonna be saved by this CD even if the “G” word pushes your buttons.

By Bill Frater

Peter Guralnick

To say that Souls' Chapel is heartfelt would be to tell it’s something manifold pleasures short. It is a heartfelt album, to be sure. It is also a hard-rocking album that is as captivating in its simplicity as it is profound in it’s emotional depth.

It’s pretty hard to resist Souls' Chapel in any of these manifestations. From the opining notes of the roebuck staples-styled guitar (actually it is “Pops” Staple’s guitar played by Marty Stuart ) to the sly syncopation of Albert Brumley’s “Lord Give Me A Little More Time” to idiomatic treatments of gospel standards and originals alike to the instrumental perfection of Souls' Chapel this is an album to suit nearly every taste but no that is predication most of all the passionate conviction that one man brings to it both instrumentally and vocally.

That conviction is never in doubt. It feels music that always comes down to the quality that has been the underpinning for so much of America’s classic roots music; belief in the uniqueness of the individual voice, the triumph of commitment over more flesh of style. This album that Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, James Blackwood or Pops Staples could always all equally enjoy: a celebration not so much of musical genre as of that familiar refusal to except categories that has been the hallmark of the American musical vision.

Harp Magazine

September 2005

Not the soul-shaking stuff that makes for a Blind Boys of Alabama record, Marty Stuart’s Souls' Gospel is, mostly, the kind of gentle music one might hear in a quiet, homey, little chapel in the woods. Vocally Stuart doesn’t possess the authority and gravitas that his friend and mentor Johnny Cash lent to such music. But when paired with the remarkable Mavis Staples on “Move Along Train,” one of two Pops Staples compositions on the disc and its undeniable high point, he calls on all he’s got as a singer and measures up well. Next to that pairing Gospel’s best articulation of faith and fire comes when Stuart showcases his considerable instrumental talents, as on the Stuart/Kenny Vaughan original “Come Into the House of the Lord.” Stuart recalls the sentiments of St. Augustine (“Give me chastity but not yet”) in “Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time” but Souls' Gospel is a sincere listenable expression of repentance and the desire for redemption. The man who once sang the Saturday-night anthem “Honky Tonkin’s What I Do Best” shows that Sunday morning’s not always about coming down.

By Rick Allen

Hartford Advocate

September 1, 2005

Six years ago Marty Stuart released The Pilgrim , a work easily the equal of Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger or Rodney Crowell's The Houston Kid , and his label promptly dropped him. On his new effort, Souls' Chapel , Stuart has produced a gospel album in the grand tradition of Cash and Elvis, with a real Sun Records vibe, über studio professionalism and musicianship; mid-tempo constructions w/harmonies reminiscent of the Louvin brothers. One whiffs a hint of those fabled stockyards in Bakersfield, too. One small caveat: Did baby Jesus only do the do-si-do to mid-tempo, safety-net rhythms 'n' such?

By Robert Renstrom

September 1, 2005

Good morning, sisters and brothers. Welcome to the HickoryWind Hour of Gospel Power. I'm the Reverend Rich Ringolsby, and friends, I want to tell you a story of redemption. I said I want to tell you a story about re-DEMP-shun. Can I get an amen? ... I want to tell you a story about sin, sisters and brothers. I want to tell you a story about sal-VA-tion. Can I get an amen? ... I want to tell you a story about JE-sus. I said I want to tell you a story about the healing power of JE-sus! Can I get an amen, sisters and brothers?

It’s a story about Brother Marty Stuart. It’s a story about how Brother Stuart was knocked to the depths of despair. He was knocked to the depths of despair by indifference in the marketplace. He was wallowing in the depths of despair because he was twice arrested for drunk driving. Brother Stuart could have stayed down, sisters and brothers. He could have stayed down and chosen sin. I say yay-us, he could have chosen sin but he chose salvation, my friends. He chose salvation and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. I said he was lifted by the Holy Spirit, and this congregation can be, too.

Step into Souls’ Chapel, the first gospel album by Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, and be saved from despair and from the temptation of mediocre music.

Step into Souls’ Chapel, my friends, and feel the healing power as the first strains of shimmering, tremolo-laden Telecaster wash over you and cleanse your soul on the opening track, the Staple Singers’ “Somebody Saved Me.”

I know you need salvation, sisters and brothers. Maybe you’ve been tempted. Tempted by lesser talents. Tempted by downloaded singles instead of worthy, well-crafted albums. Perhaps you’ve been prideful, unwilling to accept artists’ travels down roads to new challenges and unfamiliar styles. Perhaps you’ve been jealous, jealous of Brother Stuart’s early successes in mainstream country.

Cast away your sins, sisters and brothers. Cast away your blues, or keep them if you please. The gospel according to Brother Stuart is equal parts Saturday night and Sunday morning. We know it can be this way. Blues and gospel need not be worshiped in different houses. The Lord welcomes those who lovingly meld the sacred and profane. Brother Ray Charles preached that good word for more than 40 years before going on to his greater reward last year.

Brother Stuart, too, blends the blues with gospel, and you can’t help but give yourself over to it. Channeling the spirit of the dearly departed Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his family band, Brother Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives – Brother Kenny Vaughan (vocals, guitar), Brother Harry Stinson (vocals, drums) and Brother Brian Glenn (vocals, bass) – will take you to the temple of twang and for nearly 48 minutes show you the healing power of Jesus’ love. I said they show you the healing power of JE-sus, sisters and brothers.

Fear not, friends. This road to righteousness is a familiar one. Brothers Stuart and Vaughan pave the way with tasty guitar licks borrowed from the secular world. They take the form of bluesy fills on “Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time.” Follow the familiar riff borrowed from “Baby Please Don’t Go” on “Way Down.” And the story-song tradition of another revered but departed saint/sinner, Brother Johnny Cash, is even preserved on “The Gospel Story of Noah’s Ark.” Amen!

You’ll feel the spirit, sisters and brothers. You’ll feel it coursing through you in the swelling waves of B-3 organ from Barry Beckett on “Way Down,” “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand),” “It’s Time to Go” and Steve Cropper’s “Slow Train.” You’ll be lifted by the heavenly choir of Stuart and the Superlatives in four-part harmony on “The Unseen Hand” and “There’s a Rainbow (At the End of Every Storm).” But you’ll be lifted higher still, people. I say you’ll be lifted higher still when Sister Mavis Staples joins the band on her father’s “Move Along Train.”

Now that you’ve found your way back to the path of the righteous, the Superlatives provide the instrumental backdrop on the closer and title track, “Souls’ Chapel,” so you may worship in your own way.

My simple sermon can take you only so far, sisters and brothers. Get your hands on the gospel according to Brother Stuart. Follow his example and you can find salvation in the Souls’ Chapel any day of the week, so long as you’re playing it loud. Praise the Lord, and pass the headphones.

Can I get an amen?

Los Angeles Daily News

September 1, 2005

Country traditionalist Stuart fell off the wagon when he heard ex father-in-law Johnny Cash died, got himself busted and, upon release, was handed Pop Staples' guitar by the soul legend's daughter, Mavis. This all seemed like some kind of sign, of course. The result is Stuart's first album of spirituals. It's all in a style that the Mississippian refers to as Delta gospel, but sounds a mighty lot like classic, electric guitar R&B to me. This is church music you can dance to - dirty dance, even. Ms. Mavis lends her voice to a cover of Pop's great "Move Along Train." [3 out of 4 stars]

By Bob Strauss

Al Menconi Ministries

August 13, 2005

Marty Stuart's first Gospel album, Souls' Chapel, is also the first of a trilogy of diverse collections based in rich Southern culture, which Stuart will release on his new Superlatone Records imprint with Universal South.

The project is an outstanding collection of twelve songs, and it doesn't stray far from Stuart's Southern roots. Souls' Chapel was recorded outside Nashville, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, at Stuart's home by he and his band the Fabulous Superlatives -- drummer Harry Stinson, bassist Brian Glenn, and guitarist Kenny Vaughan -- along with a handful of other musicians, including drummer Chad Cromwell and the great Muscle Shoals producer Barry Beckett.

Stinson, Glenn and Vaughan also contribute background and lead vocals instead of their usual instrumental work. Musically, the project is solid throughout, reflecting a variety of styles from Gospel and Bluegrass to Country flavored tunes. One standout is the song "Move Along Train," which is a duet Stuart beautifully pulls off with Mavis Staples of the legendary Staples Singers. Other highlights include the bluesy "Way Down," a Stuart-Stinson penned original, the fiery "Come Into the House of the Lord" and the moving Albert E. Brumley number "Lord, Give Me Just A Little More Time."

Souls' Chapel puts a fresh face on some best-loved favorites and also sheds light on several new Gospel songs. The project is very impressive and I highly recommend it.

By Ginny McCabe

The Music Box

December 2005

Over the course of the past few months, music veteran Marty Stuart has released two distinctly different albums: Souls’ Chapel, with its healthy dose of harmony, is an old-time country gospel outing, and Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota is a serious concept effort that celebrates the history and culture of the Lakota Native American tribe. Both discs showcase Stuart’s tremendous versatility as an artist and help to explain his longevity in an industry that, more often than not, favors youth and superficiality over depth and raw talent.

Souls’ Chapel is the stronger of the two albums, and throughout the highly enjoyable effort, Stuart whips classic country, blues, soul, and gospel into a frothy, Jesus-centric mix. His supporting band ("His Fabulous Superlatives") carries a lot of the weight on the beautiful harmonies of "I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)" and "Come into the House of the Lord." Stuart cites The Staple Singers as an influence, and he covers a pair of its heartfelt numbers "Somebody Saved Me" and "Move Along Train." The best track, however, is the ultra-catchy original "Way Down," a number with an energy so infectious that one can imagine Hasidic Jews and Islamic clerics being moved to stand up and testify.

In short, fans of American country-gospel music peppered with a liberal dose of blues and soul will be enamored with Souls’ Chapel, and those with a particular interest in the history and mythology of the Lakota Tribe will certainly find something to like about Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota. In any case, everyone should be able to agree that the fact that Stuart released two such wildly different and ambitious albums in the same year is nothing short of remarkable. [4 stars]

By T. J. Simon

September 2005

Country music stars love to talk about the classic artists they grew up listening to, but – from Lester Flatt to Bill Monroe to Johnny Cash – Marty Stuart grew up picking alongside them. Over the course of an incredible career that has seen him careening from childhood bluegrass prodigy to Grammy-winning country star to keeper of the traditional flame, he has remained uniquely, steadfastly, Marty Stuart. Amen to that. With Soul’s Chapel, his first full-on Gospel collection, Stuart, backed by his aptly named Fabulous Superlatives, looks inward and delivers something delightfully unexpected – without ever missing a beat. This is Marty Stuart music at its best – steeped in deep-southern soul and stripped down to its spiritual essence.

Nashville Scene

August 18, 2005
Like his previous album, 2003's Country Music (credited like this one to Stuart and his ace backing band, the Fabulous Superlatives), it's a seemingly effortless old-school gem. But Souls' Chapel is from a different old school and has a different aim -- Country Music took you back home but Souls' Chapel wants to take you higher.

Stuart has found a singularly seductive way to do that, by basing his version of gospel music in the electrified Mississippi testifying of the Staple Singers. It's one influence Stuart hasn't always worn on his sleeve, but one that he does enough justice here to last a lifetime.

Stuart the producer knows just how little watering these songs need to bloom, setting warm, full-bodied harmonies in a web of spidery electric guitar, nudged along by a spare restrained rhythm section and a few drops of B-3 organ. Surprisingly, Superlatives' drummer Harry Stinson and bass player Brian Glenn give up their rhythm duties (to Chad Cromwell and Glenn Worf, respectively) to concentrate solely on harmonies here. It's a gamble that works, showcasing a natural, easy vocal blend honed at leisure on the bus and backstage.

The album is a blend of Staples numbers, traditional and classic gospel and Stuart originals, and he has chosen (and composed) them with such care that it's often difficult to know which is which. It's easy to imagine Stuart's "It's Time to Go Home" or the tour-de-force "The Gospel Story of Noah's Ark" rocking the pews a century ago. Souls' Chapel winds up with a pair of locomotive Staples songs: Steve Cropper and William Bell's "Slow Train" and Pops Staples' "Move Along Train." By the time Mavis Staples herself comes swooping in on the latter, the devil doesn't stand a chance. You may not be converted, but you'll remember that -- even in these days of Christian-right rule that divides to conquer -- there still is a welcoming power in the good word.

As a coda, Stuart appends his instrumental title cut. It's a moment of calm reflection that seems to suggest we should savor our time on earth, while making it as heavenly as possible -- and that, even if it's getting there, it's not dark yet.

By Chris Neal

Philadelphia Inquirer

September 4, 2005

Marty Stuart's new album opens with a version of the Staple Singers' "Somebody Saved Me" that features Stuart's Pops Staples-like guitar as the only accompaniment for the vocal harmonizing by him and his bandmates. Thus begins a stirring journey into what the country-music veteran calls "Delta gospel."

It's a sound largely inspired by the Staple Singers, and like that gospel group the music is dominated by slippery, swampy electric guitar. The set seamlessly alternates originals such as the testifying "It's Time to Go Home" and the narrative tale "The Gospel Story of Noah's Ark" with well-chosen material like the public-domain hymn "The Unseen Hand" and the churchy Steve Cropper-William Bell ballad "Slow Train." And, just before the instrumental title track closes one of Stuart's best albums, he brings things full circle with another Staples song, "Move Along Train," that includes the great singer Mavis Staples. Say amen, everybody.

By Nick Cristiano

Pop Matters

August 25, 2005

Marty Stuart is... well, he's a little strange. In the last 10 years, he's been a big huge Grammy-winning Nashville singer/songwriter, duetted with Travis Tritt and Willie Nelson, performed at the White House and toured with Merle Haggard, and served as president of the Country Music Foundation. (Oh, and he sports one of the finest mullet-pompadour combos in the history of all music. Damn, just LOOK at that thing!)

But he's also duetted with B.B. King and the Staples Singers and Bob Dylan, which are not necessarily fast-track strategies on Music Row right now. He's released two great and critically-beloved but just eh-selling concept albums (The Pilgrim and Country Music), married a much older woman (legendary singer Connie Smith), and who the hell does that anymore? He's studied Native American history and culture in South Dakota, scored several indie films, and released a book of photography. This is not your typical hat act, people. This is a man with ambition, which means of course that he is highly suspect to a lot of Nashville people and country music fans.

And, maybe, suspect to himself. Last year, Stuart got himself arrested for Driving Under the Influence. To a lot of country music people, this would be no big deal. But it had a huge effect on Stuart, who was shamed beyond belief. But old friends Mavis and Yvonne Staples came to visit him, and brought him a gift: a guitar that belonged to their father, ultra-gospel-soul pioneer Pops Staples. In that moment, truly, Marty Stuart saw the light. Hence, this album, which is deep-fried country-tent-revival gospel music all the way, and which is the finest piece of country music I've heard this year.

There are 12 songs here, all of which celebrate the Judeo-Christian ethic in their various ways. Some songs are about how you'll find Jesus at the bottom of your heart, others are about Noah and the Ark or holding God's invisible hand or how you don't have to be John the Baptist in order to testify. He's relieved two of His Fabulous Superlatives, his amazing backing band, of their need to play instruments on many cuts, and turned them into a backing vocal group like they're the Jordanaires, and even given them cutesy names (Handsome Harry, Cousin Kenny, Brother Brian). He wails on spirituals and Staples Singers songs (even duetting with Mavis on "Move Along Train," and setting a world record for goosebumps while doing so) and originals. He's on a damn mission to save all our souls.

Now, I'm a former Catholic altar boy who has gone through several religious phases and am now mostly a semi-agnostic Buddhist Jew; ordinarily, I'd be all like "Dude, we don't really need any more God-talk in the country music world, that's just tacit support for the powers that be, opiate of the people, it's a plot," etc. But this music just overwhelms me. I don't know why my natural defenses against this don't come into play... I guess the music and the singing must be that damned good.

Souls' Chapel is powerful, it's cool-sounding (no shoddy production for Marty Stuart, this shit is crisp like morning lettuce), and it's kind of sexy, like the snakey boogie of "Give Me Just a Little More Time" and "Come Into the House of the Lord". Stuart hits the 6/8 blues of "There's a Rainbow (At the End of Every Storm)" like he's John Henry driving a nail, and he pulls off a John Lee Hooker/Dave Alvin musical mindmeld on "It's Time to Go Home" while he's paraphrasing First Thessalonians and urging all the dead true believers to "Get up outa that ground!". It's God-music, to be sure, but it's cool as hell.

Maybe part of it is the fact that Stuart truly believes what he's singing, or the fact that he knows that true religion is not shot through with doom but with a sense of happiness. Maybe another part is that, at the end of the day, Marty don't hate anyone. (Even the record cover says "Compatible With All Denominations", which isn't strictly true but a nice gesture anyways.) But it's also that he's been doing this music thing for many years -- he has been onstage as a guitar/mandolin prodigy since he was a pre-teen -- and he knows how to make anything fun... even a religion that is being used as a bludgeon by our current presidential administration and many of our legislators.

There is nothing wrong with Christian worship, or with celebrating one's true religious beliefs in music. Most religious music is soft and soggy though; it takes a brave soul to make it bold and brash and fun. That is what Marty Stuart has done here. (He's also connected with an African-American tradition that many country singers have tried to deny until the last couple of years, but this review's too long already.) It's top-drawer musical entertainment, and will be played by this semi-agnostic Buddhist Jew for years to come.

Also: Stuart has two more albums coming this year. He's back, kids, and he's better than ever.

By Matt Cibula

Portsmouth Herald

August 3, 2005

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives are feeling the country gospel spirit on Souls' Chapel (Universal South/Superlatone.) The set hits its stride with Stuart’s deep groovin’ "Come Into the House of the Lord" and down-home, guitar-scorched "The Gospel Story of Noah’s Ark." Mavis Staples does a cameo on her "Pops" tune, "Move Along Train." B-plus

By Jonathan Takiff

Raleigh News & Observer

September 4, 2005

Marty Stuart has enjoyed a prolific career mastering the subtleties of bluegrass, country and country rock. This time out, Stuart draws from the deep musical well of the Mississippi Delta for Souls' Chapel (Superlatone), his first all-gospel recording.

Stuart's gospel is steeped in the country, blues and soul music that he listened to as a boy in Mississippi. Finding inspiration in the "good news" gospel of the Staple Singers, he opens the album with the family's "Somebody Saved Me." With the Fabulous Superlatives providing luxuriant harmony vocals and Stuart playing the late Roebuck "Pops" Staples' guitar, the song sets a tone of authenticity that extends throughout this exceptional 12-track CD.

With a deft combination of older songs and insightful Stuart originals, the album yields a variety of styles while maintaining a consistent mood. The funky blues rhythms accentuating Albert Brumley's "Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time" contrast with the quiet reverence of "The Unseen Hand" and the churning progression of "Move Along Train," with Stuart and Mavis Staples trading lead and harmony voices.

The Superlatives, who feature Nashville stalwarts Kenny Vaughan on lead guitar, bassist Brian Glenn and drummer Harry Stinson, are supported by an A-list of studio pickers, including bassist Glenn Worf and keyboardist Barry Beckett. Their simple, emotionally engaging arrangements establish inviting atmospheres for Stuart's messages of inspiration and hope.

Stuart wrote six of the dozen tracks. They extend from Old Testament exegesis ("The Gospel Story of Noah's Ark") to rocking exhortations ("Come into the House of the Lord") and the easygoing lilt of the instrumental title track. Together, they offer promise without preaching, salvation without blame and a charming glimpse of the vital connections between music and faith in the American South. [3 of 4 stars]

By Jack Bernhardt

October 14, 2005

I've always been a fan of Marty Stuart, in most of his various musical endeavors. He's done everything from bluegrass to country to rockabilly to... well, you get the idea. His latest project, Souls' Chapel, combines the best in gospel songwriting with electric 'southern soul' to make one of the most enjoyable and pleasing listening experiences I've had!

There's so much great music on this one, it'd be hard for me to spotlight one song over another. The whole album has this wonderful 'southern soul' groove to it that just makes me want to keep listening and sing along. Needless to say, this one's gonna stay in my player for a good long while before I get tired of it.

This album has that comfortable feel of classic sounds blended with great songs of faith. If you like good southern soul music with a good back beat and a good groove, you'd better buy this one as soon as you can. I promise you won't regret it! [7 out of 8 stars]

By Matt B.

Sound and Vision Magazine

May 2006

Breaking away from Nashville country with a vengeance, reformed honky-tonker Marty Stuart has released three CDs in three genres within six months. Although there isn't a mainstream studio album in the batch, Stuart carries the same excellent band (the Fabulous Superlatives) and plenty of his old country-rock instincts into all three.

In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more rocking gospel album than the first of the three, Souls' Chapel, a celebratory gospel album instead of a fashionably ominous one. Leaving the mandolin in its case, Stuart hangs the disc on a tremolo guitar sound that would be more at home on a Fat Possum blues disc. Stone-country vocal harmonies are matched with Memphis soul material (two songs from Pops Staples and one from Steve Cropper), but the mix never sounds forced — not even when Stuart makes the hymn "Way Down" sound just like "Baby Please Don't Go." [4 stars]

Style Weekly

November 16, 2005

From the first softly stinging guitar tones and warmly caressing harmonies, you can tell this one’s a keeper. For his Mississippi-style country gospel record, Marty Stuart wanted to capture the sound and feeling of the legendary Staples Family, and he succeeded. Stuart lays down his mandolin and takes up electric guitar, capturing the trademark sound of Pops Staples, a shimmering rhythmic shudder and delicacy. Elsewhere, he tosses in some fleet Nashville picking, and even throws the riff from Them’s classic version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” into the original “Way Down.”

Alongside cuts by Pops Staples, Albert E. Brumley and Steve Cropper are six tunes Stuart wrote or co-wrote. The collection dovetails into one righteous and reverent mood while sterling harmonies flow throughout. An obvious contender for gospel record of the year, this is a landmark for the ageless Stuart, who does so many things well, and always with soul. [4 stars]

By Andy Garrigue


This has to be equal, maybe even superior, to any recording Marty Stuart has ever done. His last album, Country Music, was uneven, its high points stellar, but too often marred by inferior material. Here the material is excellent, but it's Marty's soulful singing -- has ever he sung better? -- that draws the listener into these stirring songs of the spirit. And of course when Roebuck Staples and his daughter Mavis, the fabled champions of African-American gospel, show up at the right moments, you know you're walking with the Lord up the highest mountain.

Maybe the best thing to happen to Stuart was getting away from major-label craziness and putting his whole focus on the music. With Marty free at last, let us hope we're in for -- if Souls' Chapel is any indication (and how can it not be?) -- the for-the-ages American music Marty Stuart has always had in him.


As an artist, Marty Stuart has no peers. Once again he has done something no one else would have the vision, talent and mileage to pull off. Just to hear Marty and Kenny Vaughan play guitar on this make it a landmark recording. The whole project is remarkable. I anxiously await the next two planned releases. This is the best disc I've heard all year.


Do you remember the first time a DJ played a Stapes Singers record on the radio and you thought what great music that is and later realized it was not soul music but gospel? This CD has the same wonderful music. The harmonizing is magnificent. The people who worked on this record obviously love this music and had fun recording it. They cover a couple of Staples songs, a soul gospel written by Steve Cropper and William Bell, some old time gospel and some rocking gospel. In other words, it is American music. If you want to hear something rare in these days and times, heartfelt music that is sung and played by people who care for their music, this is a record for you.


Marty Stuart - perennial just to the left of middle of the road country singer (and secret hot dog guitar and mandolin slinger) has come out of left field with a searing, graceful gospel record. This is one for the books.

The Tennessean

December 25, 2005
Marty Stuart and his co-conspirators the Fabulous Superlatives are appropriately reverent and riled up on Souls' Chapel, a mix of gospel standards (Pops Staples' "Somebody Saved Me" is on the album's stripped-down standout) and Stuart-penned gospel-rock, soul and blues jaunts that praise, howl and sizzle. It's an appropriately accomplished collection from an accomplished performer, and one that radiates faith-focused passion.

By Nicole Keiper

USA Today

September 6, 2005

If the guitar lick that begins lead track "Somebody Saved Me" sounds like Roebuck "Pops" Staples resurrected, it ought to: Stuart is playing Staples' guitar. Thus starts the bluesiest gospel album you may ever hear, a righteous collection of testifying six-string twang and quartet vocals that fit together like the pieces of a tailored silk suit.

By Brian Mansfield

Village Records

It’s not easy being the torchbearer for an entire segment of American music. Especially one as import as Country. However, Stuart has accepted the challenge and has been it’s best and most sincere artist for many years now. On this new recording he tackles the gospel corner of the genre. As always he does a first rate job. Make no mistake here this is not some country act offering a tired gospel cash in to get out of a contract. This is a full on organic take on country gospel. It also rocks here and there. It’s a mix of traditional and original tunes that will find there way to your disc player on more than just Sunday’s.

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