Country Artist Marty Stuart Performs A Thank-You Concert

This appeared in the Rapid City Journal - June 24, 2005

Country music performer Marty Stuart gave a free concert on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Wednesday (June 22, 2005) afternoon.

As he began shortly after 4 p.m., a large bird soared through the blue sky over the prairie. "An eagle, flyin' over Red Shirt," Stuart said before he launched seamlessly into his opening song called "Broken Promise Land."

Stuart played songs from a CD that he will release early next year titled Badlands. With the eroded natural rock as a backdrop, people brought lawn chairs and umbrellas to sit under the hot sun and watch the concert.

"This is his gift to these people," said Mike Coupe, a minister and a good friend of Stuart's, who accompanied the singer and band to South Dakota.

Stuart declined to be interviewed.

"The idea was, this place really inspired him, and he wanted to give something back," Stuart's manager, Marc Dottore, said.

Coupe said the CD's songs cover such topics as heroes such as Crazy Horse, Red Cloud and Sitting Bull, the battles at Wounded Knee and Little Bighorn and the modern-day struggles of American Indians. One song is a cover of a Johnny Cash song, but the other 13 are Stuart's originals.

"It's a story in song about these people, their history, their culture and their future," Coupe said.

Kay Clary with Commotion PR in Nashville described it as a concept album.

"This is a project that's just so close to his heart," Coupe said. "He's passionate about these people."

Two groups of Lakota musicians also played at the concert. Will Peters and his 16-year-old son Jesse were one of the groups.

"Marty honored me by asking me to play at this event," Peters said. "(I) got a lot of respect for Marty. He was adopted by some of our local tribal members. … It was like he's coming home."

Despite the heat, a few Lakota came wearing traditional ceremonial dress or headwear.

A large crane suspended a TV camera recording the concert. Country Music Television was taping the concert as part of a documentary about Stuart's CD.

The documentary is a series called "In the Moment," Dottore said and has regularly featured the CDs of other country musicians, including Gretchen Wilson. The crew has been following Stuart around for several weeks, according to Clary, and this concert will be only one component of the documentary about the CD's development.

Badlands had been scheduled for an August release, and CMT had scheduled the documentary for July. However, Stuart rearranged the release dates of three CDs he is working on, and now Badlands won't be released until January or February 2006. CMT still will run the special next month, Clary said.

Stuart has a long history in the country music world. In his home state of Mississippi, he was viewed as a local prodigy. At age 13, he began playing mandolin in the Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass band, according to his biography. Before he was 20, he became a guitar player in Johnny Cash's band.

Cash introduced Stuart to South Dakota's Badlands about 20 years ago, Coupe said, and Stuart has returned many times to cultivate friendships. Stuart and his wife, Connie Smith, were married in the Badlands area.

"He's down to earth and really a generous and respectful person, he and his wife," Peters said.

In recognition of his continued study of American Indian culture, Stuart in 2000 received an honorary master's degree in Lakota Leadership from Oglala Lakota College.

Stuart released 14 albums between 1978 and 2003 under various labels. Recently, he created his own imprint label, Superlatone, under Universal South Records.

Besides Badlands, he has two other CDs in the works under Superlatone: Soul's Chapel, a CD he describes as "Mississippi Gospel" set for release on Aug. 30, and a recording of a 2003 bluegrass concert at the Grand Ole Opry, which will be his first bluegrass CD, Clary said.

The CDs are all a collaboration of Stuart and his band, called the Fabulous Superlatives.

Harry Stinson plays drums, Brian Glenn plays bass and Kenny Vaughan plays guitar, though they all contribute to some vocals as well.

Stuart's talents are not confined to music, either. Besides composing a musical score for a recent movie, he has produced CDs for friends, plans to release several books of his own photography, one of Badlands photography.

He is also an avid music historian and collector. His private collection of country music items is the largest in the nation, with 20,000 items including stage costumes and original song manuscripts.

By Naomi Schemm

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