Stuart Worships At The House Of Music

Country Star Returns To Gospel Roots On New Albums

This appeared on - January 19, 2006

Country music star Marty Stuart arrives at the Southgate House as motivated as he has ever been.

He is supporting three new albums on his own record label - Superlatone Records. That project was a long time coming for the 47-year-old Grammy winner, who started touring at 12 with The Sullivan Family band.

"Superlatone Records is my playpen, as I call it," explains Stuart. "If I can think it up, I can record it, within reason. The label is distributed by Universal Music, so it makes me feel good to know that anywhere I go, my records are represented. It's about artistic freedom," he says.

"I feel like I've been creatively pardoned. The idea of it is that in the span of things, in the long run, I can look back at this section in time creatively and go, 'Well, this truly represented what was going on inside of me and what I saw as an artist.' So, I am very proud of the work I've done so far on Superlatone Records."

Musical Exploration

Stuart's first three releases on the new label include the electric guitar-based gospel of Souls' Chapel, Badlands, inspired by the time Stuart has spent at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the soon-to-be released bluegrass album Live At The Ryman.

"I call these three records I'm working off of right now my church house trilogy," says the Mississippi native. "The Ryman Auditorium record is from the mother church of country music. Souls Chapel is from the Mississippi Delta, which is kind of a church within itself, and the Badlands is a sanctuary all its own."

Stuart has wanted to make Souls' Chapel for 35 years.

"The first place I ever played was in church," he says. "The first job I ever had on the road was with a gospel band. I produced a gospel record for Johnny Cash. I've written a lot of gospel songs with Jerry and Tammy Sullivan and produced records with them. But, I've never been given the opportunity to make a record of this kind of music that is well beyond any other kind of music that is way down in my heart."

One of the main influences for the more rocking sound of Souls' Chapel was Stuart's friend, the late guitarist and singer Pops Staples, of the Staples Family.

"I got in trouble down here (Nashville) for drinking and driving and got out of jail and got on the bus with my lip on the ground and my head hung in shame to go to Chicago the next day," Stuart confesses. "The media was all over it and I was just embarrassed and felt worthless. Awful. And Yvonne and Mavis Staples came to our concert in Chicago the next night. I don't think they knew anything about what had gone on with me, and they brought me and gave me Pops' guitar. It really was like God saying, 'Here son, I still love you. Take this and do something good with your life.' Hanging Pops' guitar around my neck is like hanging a flashlight around my neck. It is an instrument of light, and it is to be taken seriously when used."

American Sounds

The idea for the Native American-themed Badlands first came to Stuart during his six-year stint as a guitar player in Johnny Cash's band.

"1983 was the first time I came face to face with it when I was working with John. We played a concert up there on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and it was pointed out to me that the reason we were there was because it was the poorest county in the United States. Being from Mississippi, I understand poor," Stuart says. "But it was the first time I'd ever been face to face with people inside the United States that were that poor, that had basically been shoved out in the middle of nowhere to die and signed off on by the U.S. government. But what I saw that night was not an oppressed people so much as it was a lot of dignity and integrity by the original Americans. The very minute that you and I speak, it is still the poorest county in the United States of America. Do I think this record is going to change anything up there? I doubt it. It's just another log on the fire of hope, is the way I see it."

On this tour, as always, Stuart will be backed by his a-list band, the Fabulous Superlatives.

"It's the band of a lifetime," says Stuart. "Harry Stinson and Kenny Vaughan and Brian Glenn are truly modern American masters and great statesmen for American music. Anywhere I go there, they are, and I'm really proud to stand beside them."

By Derek Halsey

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