Marty Stuart (Love and Luck)

This appeared in Country Music USA - April 1994

He's a gold-selling, Grammy and CMA winning performer and a BMI award winning writer, the man US Magazine points to as the future of country music and one of the hottest performers on the road. Marty Stuart is one of the most respected people in country music. He is an entertainer, a singer, songwriter and a musician. He has the rare talent to combine the classic roots of where country has been with the cutting edge of where country is going.

Marty's fourth LP for MCA, Love and Luck, was released on March 15 and, like his previous efforts, it embodies his unique combination of country, gospel and bluegrass elements. The new album, co-produced by Stuart and Tony Brown (Wynonna, Vince Gill, Steve Earle), demonstrates Marty's unique perspective by his choice of covers that range from the Gram Parsons/Chris Hillman-penned Wheels to the Southern soul of Billy Joe Shaver to the Slim Harpo/Rolling Stones cover of Shake Your Hips and seven original songs (including one hot mandolin instrumental).

It's been nearly two years since Marty released This One's Gonna Hurt You, one of 1992's most critically acclaimed albums and produced such hits as Now That's Country and Hey Baby. The album went gold and Entertainment Weekly called the recording a nearly flawless blend of rock and country. Chicago Tribute critic Jack Hurst suggested it could one day be considered one of the most important recordings in the country genre.

The new album follows last year's extremely successful Marty Party Tour--a totally Marty combination of an old-time traveling show and his own "hillbilly rock" style. The Marty Party started on the road right on the heels of one of the most successful years an artist could ever hope for. Two of his songs became award-winning duets with his friend Travis Tritt: The Whiskey Ain't Workin' and This One's Gonna Hurt You (For A Long, Long Time). The collaboration on these two songs brought the team a Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year in 1992 and Whiskey won a Grammy in 1993. Their No Hats Tour was proclaimed one of the hottest shows on the road in 1992--so hot, in fact, that it became the subject of a Pay-Per-View event. Yet with all the commercial and critical acclaim, Marty's biggest moment of the year came when he was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, upon whose stage he had first appeared as a 13 year old.

It is appropriate that journalists often point to Marty Stuart as the past, present and future of country. He is as progressive an artist as exists today, yet his country roots run deep and wide. He is a student of the masters who has become a master himself. He went on the road with Lester Flatt's band when he was 13, startling even veteran pickers with his world-class performances. To understand Marty's ability to merge a variety of styles, one only need hear a story from the days with Flatt.

"One show in particular made a mark on my career," he recalls. "We were playing Michigan State. The opening act was Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, then Lester, the the Eagles. That showed me you could play country music and just stand and do what you do. We were Martians to this audience, but they loved us. I never thought I would see country music go to college campuses again, but half the No Hats shows were on campuses and they were sold out. I feel like a pioneer."

When Flatt died in 1979, Marty branched out, playing a kind of bluegrass fusion with fiddle player Vassar Clements and working with acoustic guitar virtuoso Doc Watson. He also began a six-year stint touring and recording with Johnny Cash, which would both leave a lasting impression on the young artist and cause Cash to call Marty his favorite electric guitar player.

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 new touring bus is a lovingly re-created and updated version of Ernest Tubb's old bus, where Marty spent many a youthful hour learning how to play poker from the masters.

Marty Stuart produced his first solo album in 1982--Busy Bee Cafe on the independent Sugar Hill label. The session band on the half-vocal, half-instrumental album attested to a young artist's industry respect: Doc Watson, Merle Watson and Johnny Cash on guitars, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Carl Jackson on banjo. In 1986, he made his major label debut on CBS with Marty Stuart.

He also became a sought-after session player, with studio and concert credits ranging from Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. (He has since played on sessions for acts such as Randy Travis, Mark O'Connor and the New Nashville Cats, Roy Rogers (vocals), Joy White and Travis Tritt.) He continues to hone his songwriting skills and has had cuts by such artists as Wynonna, George Strait, Emmylou Harris, Joy White and Travis Tritt.

When Marty Stuart came to MCA Records, he teamed up with co-producers Tony Brown and Richard Bennett. His 1989 debut project, Hillbilly Rock, firmly established him as a major contender for stardom. The 1990 follow-up release, Tempted, produced four consecutive top ten hits: Little Things, Till I Found You, Tempted, and Burn Me Down. The third release was the previously mentioned This One's Gonna Hurt You.

It is as USA Today's David Zimmerman wrote, "It's the fulfillment of what Nashville's Old Guard has been saying for years: Stuart's talent and credentials were bound to carry him to stardom."

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