Marty Stuart: Country Historian, Hillbilly Rocker

This appeared in Cleveland Country Magazine - December 1994

There is such a range of choices for country fans from George Jones, Bill Monroe, Roy Acuff to the other hand, the new country breed of Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson Travis Tritt, Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Trisha Yearwood, etc.

Having such a wide range of choice is obviously a good sign of growth for the country genre. And that's especially good for Marty Stuart, because the broader country music gets, the more he feels at home in it.

A non-traditional type of country entertainer, Stuart has no pick-up truck, no big hat, no pressed-jean cowboy look. Instead he portrays proudly his "hillbilly hair" and proclaims of being "country to the bone."

At the age of thirty-five, Stuart's list of credentials reads like someone twice his age. A musician who turned professional when he was barely a teenager, he cut his teeth playing with Lester Flatt, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris.

Stuart incorporates a lot of history into his act. You'll hear songs by Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and other country forefathers that forged the ground for Stuart. "And you know, most kids think they're brand new songs. They like it and they don't even know why. That's the beauty of it."

Stuart is a big believer of tradition. Having been brought up on the classics--Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Flatt & Scruggs--he knows the music that serves as modern country's foundations. And he understands just how that music remains important today.

"The music we're making today is great," he said. "It's better technically, and we're prettier than those guys in a lot of cases. But those records still haven't been beaten. They're just blueprints, you know."

Blueprints for what is Stuart's latest release, his seventh album, Love and Luck. Now Stuart's fans are treated to a ride consisting of blues, rock, gospel and traditional country.

Stuart's eclectic taste stems back to his childhood in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where is mom was a "hit and miss" piano player at church and his father was a hard core Grand Ole Opry fan. Back then the radio stations didn't stick to a tight narrow playlist; it broadcast a mix of gospel, soul, country and top 40 rock and roll, and Stuart soaked it all in.

"It all makes sense to me. It doesn't to anybody else," Stuart laughs, explaining the diverse song mix on Love and Luck. Unlike some country artists, Stuart isn't cut from any typical cloth.

"It would've been so much easier on me if I could've just picked up a cowboy hat and had one of those voices that could sing radio hits. That would have just been one-dimensional," he says. "But to me, country music is so much broader than all of that, country music is a universe within itself, and I love knowing where the full corners of that stuff lies."

"I've seen trends come and go. You don't want to be stuck with an album on your hands that you're cutting just to supply a trend. I believe you need to just do what you love and believe in, or you're gonna find egg on your face."

Stuart doesn't have to worry about that. He's a hard working country troubadour who has earned the recognition and admiration from country legends, peers, music critics and fans. He has traveled a long road to preserve the music he grew up with and loves.

"The road takes a lot out of you. It robs you of years of your life if you're not careful," he says. "I have respect for the road, me and her have a good relationship. I'm a gypsy. I never go anywhere to stay. I always go to leave."

Stuart's latest tour is enabling him to do just that, traveling a road he's been on since he was a kid.

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