Marty Stuart's Souls' Chapel Captures The Attention Of Diverse Audiences

This appeared in Common Ground Christian News - November 2005

Country and Bluegrass legend, Marty Stuart embarks on new territory with his latest Gospel debut Souls' Chapel. But it is a musical territory that is not unfamiliar to him, with his roots in the South and the old-time Gospel music that he grew up with. The project is also the first of a trilogy of diverse collections based in rich Southern culture, which Stuart will release on his new Superlatone Records imprint with Universal South.

Stuart said the album captures a Southern style of Gospel and the same type of music that he cherished as a child. "You know what this record sounds like to me?" he said, "It sounds like everything I heard on the radio as a kid growing up in Mississippi.”

Stuart is not only a Country and Bluegrass icon, but he is also known to be an accomplished photographer, historian, collector, storyteller, musician, archivist, and through all of his endeavors, he is always mindful of country music's place within American culture. In all of his endeavors - including songwriting, singing, playing and producing - he is a storyteller who is determined to share his story with everyone he meets.

He has earned six top-ten hits, one platinum and five gold albums, and four Grammy Awards, but his success goes far beyond what is represented in all of his awards. His impressive work has gone beyond the traditional music boundaries and has made an impact on people all over the world.

Described as a string-player prodigy, the Philadelphia, Mississippi native's first job found him on the road, playing mandolin with the Sullivan Family Singers, who sang Bluegrass Gospel music.

“I began appearing with them when I was 12 years old,” said Stuart. ”We played Pentecostal churches, camp meetings, bluegrass festivals and George Wallace campaign rallies all throughout the South that summer. It was baptism by fire into a wonderfully archaic brand of church-house rock and roll. I always felt the presence of the truth inside that music.”

Stuart has come to know the Gospel truth more personally through his life experiences and through people he is close to in his life. "We were playing a show in Chicago...Mavis and Yvonne Staples came to the concert that night. Without them knowing (what was going on with me personally), they brought and gave me Pops Staples' guitar. It was the greatest confirmation I'd ever had to fight on. It was like being handed the Excalibur sword. It was like being knighted with an instrument of light,” said Stuart. "It gave me the inspiration to go on, get my life back on track, and make this record."

"Pops Staples was always one of my closest friends," said Stuart. "To me, he was as much a force of light as Robert Johnson was a force of darkness. So Pops and I were real close; the Staples are like my family."

Souls' Chapel was recorded at Stuart's home, outside Nashville, in Hendersonville, Tennessee. His band, The Fabulous Superlatives, which include drummer Harry Stinson, bassist Brian Glenn, and guitarist Kenny Vaughan, along with a handful of other musicians, such as the drummer Chad Cromwell and Muscle Shoals-sired keyboardist and producer Barry Beckett. Stinson, Glenn and Vaughan also contribute background and lead vocals instead of their usual instrumental work.

What started out as singing gospel songs on the bands bus as they toured across the country turned into a Bluegrass and Country flavored Gospel, eleven-song project called Souls' Chapel, which is an effort that not only reflects superior musicianship but a mix of a few traditional favorites with a host of new originals.

The collection opens with "Somebody Saved Me," a Pops Staples composition that indicates at once how Stuart (singing in a naturally strong voice that conveys both authority and intimacy) along with the harmonizing that results in a moving and fresh number that will leave audiences inspired.

Another song on the project "Move Along Train," features a guest appearance and duet with Mavis Staples of the legendary Staples Singers and Stuart.

Other highlights on the project include the Albert E. Brumley penned "Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time," and the bluesy "Way Down," a Stuart-Stinson original, along with the double finale of Steve Cropper and William Bell's "Slow Train."

Souls' Chapel proves that the collection of songs goes beyond the traditional boundaries and fearlessly covers new territory. The project is an inspiring collection of songs that will offer hope to a wide-range of listeners.

By Ginny McCabe

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