Marty Stuart (Tempted)

This appeared in Country Music USA - April 1991

Marty Stuart is a man on a mission. "What I have a passion to do," he explains, "is to take what I've learned and been a part of in the past with all the masters and then bridge it into the future. I'm crusading for hillbilly music."

Stuart's crusade began with his debut MCA album Hillbilly Rock, which yielded three hit singles, and continues with his new MCA album, Tempted. He opens the album with a spirited performance of "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," a song written by two of the most influential figures in the history of hillbilly music--bluegrass patriarch Bill Monroe and honky tonk king Hank Williams. The infectious rhythms of the Memphis/Sun Records artist is set forth on Johnny Cash's song "Blue Train." The bridge from the past to the future is nowhere more apparent than on "Burn Me Down," a song written in 1965 by Eddie Miller (writer of "Release Me"), enhanced by some new lyrics and music by Marty Stuart.

Stuart's compositions carry forward from the standards set by the masters. His "Paint The Town Tonight" captures the hillbilly heartbreak of an old Buck Owens record. He teamed up with Paul Kennerley, writer of "Hillbilly Rock" and a connoisseur of classic rock and country music, to write the driving rhythmic numbers "Tempted" and "Little Things," Kennerley and Hank DeVito ("Queen of Hearts") contributed "Till I Found You," with its twangy lead guitar part. Stuart and Kostas ("Timber, I'm Falling In Love") captured the heart and soul of honky tonk music in the walking bass feel of "Half A Heart" and the emotional drama of "I Want A Woman." With Neil Young's "Back To The Country," Stuart glances back to his own past as a studio musician, having played on Young's original version of the song.

The masters of hillbilly music are more than an element in Stuart's music. They are a part of his life. Onstage, he plays country-rock pioneer Clarence White's 1954 Telecaster with a steel guitar-like string bender on the B-string. He also plays a Martin D-45 formerly owned by Hank Williams Sr. and a D-28 that was Lester Flatt's. His bus is Ernest Tubb's old bus, where Stuart spent many a youthful hour learning how to play poker from the masters. He wears flashy rhinestone and Western suits made by Nudie and Manuel.

Stuart followed another hillbilly master's tradition by using his live band on many of the cuts on Tempted. The band not only gives the music that extra degree of live energy, it is an integral part of Stuart's music. "When I put the band together, I started writing songs to fit the band," he explains. "I had just seen a Bob Dylan concert. It was him, G. E. Smith (the guitarist from "Saturday Night Live), and two other guys. I thought, musically that's smart, economically, that's smart. I came to see Bob Dylan, not a whole entourage."

"Then I got to favorite bands were Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Merle Haggard and the Strangers, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three. I started writing songs like "Paint The Town," "Half A Heart," that me and the band could do. That's basically what's behind this album...simplicity. When I was a kid, Johnny Cash was my hero, but his guitar player Luther Perkins was too. I thought Luther was half of Johnny's records. With Buck Owens, you had Don Rich on guitar. Everybody in the band was a star. That's the kind of band I've put together with Rockin' Ray Flacke on guitar, Dangerous Dave Durocher on drums and the king of the hillbilly bass, Larry Marrs. They're all stars in their own right."

Stuart feels that the musical vision that began with Hillbilly Rock is being fulfilled with Tempted. Again co-produced by Tony Brown and Richard Bennett, Tempted incorporates Stuart's experiences and his goals, elements of country music past and future, into a new style of music that is solid, vital and uniquely his own.

"I'm just now figuring myself out," he explains. "I've just now gotten to the point of playing my kind of music. I've played so many kinds of music with so many people, I was a long way back to my heart and soul. I've got it now. This rockin' honky tonk music."

Return To Articles Return To Home Page