Superlative Sound

Grammy winnter Marty Stuart and his band to perform at Princess

This appeared in The Decatur Daily on February 11, 2010

It’s all about the music for country music star Marty Stuart, a Grammy winner and Grand Ole Opry regular. Live concerts, albums, television, photography — whatever medium he undertakes, he thrives.

The Mississippi native made his home in Nashville, and he performs with his Fabulous Superlatives across the country. Though they are usually plugged in for performances, their Decatur concert is special.

Stuart and his band will perform an acoustic show at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts on February 19, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.

“It makes for a better listening night, and it becomes about the songs and becomes about that intimate experience,” he said. “Those kind of theaters call for that to me.” That doesn’t mean the energy level will suffer. Stuart says, “Bring your seat belt and come on.”

The 51-year-old applies that approach to his everyday life; he rarely seems to slow down. His deep, expressive voice resonated through the phone in an interview last week. Phones rang constantly in the background, as a persistent reminder of all the other projects on his schedule.

In addition to finishing new records and planning a tour, he is in the middle of filming the second season of The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV. Upcoming guests include Hank Williams, III, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill, as well as Stuart’s wife of 12 years, Opry star Connie Smith.

He’s quick to credit his administrative staff and extensive planning, which allow him to successfully juggle commitments, including his own label, Superlatone Records.

This ambitious confidence began at an early age. He received his first guitar at age 2 and started his first band at 10. By 12, he played mandolin with the Sullivan Family, an Alabama bluegrass/gospel group. At 13, he made his first Opry appearance on mandolin with Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass.

Nashville was like “Hillbilly Hollywood” to the young performer. “It was like that scene in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that goes from black-and-white to color,” he said. “All I ever wanted to do was be a country music singer and be part of the country music family. ... I got here as quick as I could.”

Then Stuart landed the job he’d always wanted: playing with Johnny Cash. “The first two records I owned were Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs, and Johnny Cash, and those were the only two jobs I had,” he said.

He went solo in 1982 and broke into the top 10 for the first time in 1990 with the album Hillbilly Rock.

Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives — Paul Martin, Harry Stinson and Kenny Vaughan — have released four albums since 2003. Stuart, who plays guitar, bass, mandolin and fiddle, expertly blends varied sounds like bluegrass, gospel, honky-tonk with his traditional country roots.

“Coming from Mississippi and from the South in general, we’re a diverse culture musically,” he said. But “at the end of the day, I’m a traditional country music artist.”

He still listens to Merle Haggard, George Jones, Muddy Waters and the Staple Singers. Just don’t expect to see him listening to an iPod. Most of his collection is on vinyl and CDs.

To stay relevant in the competitive music industry with popular young stars like Taylor Swift, Stuart prefers to stay true to himself and continue to write original songs. “It’s one thing to be the brightest pop star on the planet for three years in a row; it’s another thing to be in the business for 38 years in a row,” he said.

“You have to keep it honest, keep it authentic and don’t chase.”

He’s also honest when it comes to talking about his pre-show routine. “I’m boring,” he said. “I take a 15-minute nap, put on some cowboy clothes and see what happens at the microphone.”

There’s nothing boring about Stuart’s schedule, however. He’ll release two new albums, Ghost Train, featuring mostly songs he wrote, and Cathedral, a follow-up to the 2005 gospel album Soul’s Chapel. He’s also working on two books that feature his other passion, photographing music legends. Then he has to film 14 more TV shows before the end of the month.

But other than that, he’s got nothing going on.

By Andrea Brunty

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