Marty Stuart Talks Mixing Country And Gospel On New Double Album

This appeared on - September 26, 2014

2014 has been a creative watershed year for Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives. The band continues to play for packed houses across America, and they're working on an upcoming all-instrumental album. Earlier this year, Stuart and  company released The Gospel Music Of Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives, a collection of performances from their weekly RFD-TV series.

'The Gaither project was very much an honor. It was like I was knighted in Gospel music circles. Bill Gaither has been a longtime friend of mine and [wife] Connie's."

But, what has the singer's attention right now is his double-CD set Saturday Night / Sunday Morning, which will be released Tuesday. The singer tells Billboard the project has been in the planning stages for quite some time. "The first song that we recorded for it was nine years ago -- 'Uncloudy Day' with Mavis Staples. I released Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions and Nashville, Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down all while working on this record. It's been a long time coming, but I like the results of it, I really do."

Stuart admits that Gospel music is at the forefront of what the band does musically. "In the beginning, Gospel music has always been such an honest part of who the Fabulous Superlatives are. When we first put the band together, the way we learned to sing together was through Gospel songs. We would sit around backstage and sing Gospel songs. Oddly enough, Harry Stinson was a big fan of black Gospel music. He brought the music of the Swan Silvertones and the Dixie Hummingbirds to the table. I brought the Staple Singers, and the music that I made with Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, and the knowledge of all the Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe and the old bluegrass Gospel. Kenny Vaughan brought Sister Rosetta Tharpe's music to the table, and when Paul Martin joined us, he came in from the world of the Oak Ridge Boys, so we all knew Gospel Music. It's understood that we're a hard-hitting country band, but Gospel music was the underpinning of it. So we simply started this project by doing what we do -- and that's Gospel songs."

But Stuart's imagination about the set began to run wild, and one album turned into two. "As we built the project, the title Saturday Night / Sunday Morning occurred to me, and I thought, 'Why not do one of each?' Beyond us, country music has always had a unique relationship with Gospel music -- going back to Hank Williams and those kind of characters. They could be drunk and falling off the stage, singing honky tonk and hillbilly, but at one point, everybody would take off their hats and sing a Gospel song. And, country fans totally understand that. So, that's the reason for the two CD set."

On the country disc -- Saturday Night -- one of the highlights is the autobiographical "Rough Around the Edge." Stuart said the lyrics of the songs are ones he knows firsthand. "The first line of that song speaks volumes: 'I woke up this morning with miles of life behind me, my friends and family worried, they don't know where to find me.' That takes care of a good part of my life. I think there's a lot of people out there that can relate to that," said the Grand Ole Opry member.

Though he's had his personal ups and downs since moving to Nashville as a teenager, Stuart says there's nowhere else he would rather be. When asked what advice he would give himself back then, he related this story. "There used to be a truck stop at I-65 and Trinity Lane, and all the singers used to stop and eat breakfast and fuel their buses while going in and out of town. There was an old bluegrass musician named Joe Stuart, who had been in Bill Monroe's band since the '40s. He liked me. We spelled our names the same, and he'd always say, 'That's my kid there,' and he always looked out for me. One night, Roland White and I stopped at the truck stop. Joe had heard that I was going to stick around Nashville, join Lester Flatt's band, and go for it. He came up to me, put his arm around me, and said 'Listen, go back home, and stay with your mama and daddy for awhile, then come back.' I said, 'Joe, I can't. I've got to stay.' He tried his very best. That was his way of protecting and shielding me from the rough stuff. If I had to stand and say the same thing to a kid, if it's in your heart to do it, you have to do it. There's no way around it. Make the best choices you can -- make integrity-based choices -- stay sober, and keep your eye on who gave you your talent in the first place, and the design that God has on your life. It's not about chasing charts, or taking all the money or awards home. Lester Flatt once told me that it's about being welcome every January 1 with respect. That's the best advice I've ever had right there."

By Chuck Dauphin

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