Marty Stuart In Concert At Riverside Resort

This appeared in the Laughlin Entertainer - October 13, 2004

Marty Stuart isn't your typical country music performer. And not just because he wears rhinestone-studded jackets designed by somebody named Manuel. Even if his jackets were designed by J.C. Penney, he'd still be a non-typical performer. His history in country music guarantees it.

When other 13-year-old kids were preparing for junior high school, Stuart had put school and Philadelphia, Mississippi in his rearview mirror and was out in the world playing in Lester Flatt's bluegrass band.

Following Flatt's death in 1979, Stuart played with fiddler Vassar Clemens and acoustic guitar great Doc Watson before beginning a six-year stint with country legend Johnny Cash.

All this "on-the-job-training," taught Stuart lessons he would never get in the classroom. He saw the less than sugar-coated side of "show business" which helped him develop a wisdom beyond his years. Stuart wasn't a star-struck kid waiting for his chance to shine...he was a musician with a job to do.

"I've always been realistic about things," he explained in a recent interview with the Laughlin Entertainer. "I was still a little boy but I saw a lot of drunks and drug addicts, people who were prisoners of their own devices. I had a very truthful realization about this place. Show biz can eat your lunch. The good thing is, I come from a grounded family. They were the voice of true reason. I had no illusions about this business, I had more than just a slight suspicion."

And he had another thing. Tremendous talent. Enough so, he was invited to "the dance" that is called country music.

"That was the beauty of the whole thing," he stated. "I had access to people who invented the music...the structure and the infrastructure of modern day country music. When God handed down country music's birth certificate, I was there...and I've been there all along, to the current era...writing country songs for the modern day artist...from the Carter Family to the Dixie Chicks, I've been there."

He could easily say he has been there with another country great: Marty Stuart. For not only has he been an integral part of many other great careers, he has done rather well as a solo artist himself.

His solo hits include 'Tempted," from the album of the same name; "Little Things," "'Till I Found You," and "Burn Me Down." He also fused elements of bluegrass and rock and roll to create a new direction in country music called rockabilly.

In 1991, he went the collaboration rout on a duet with Travis Tritt, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'."

It worked.

The song earned the duo a Grammy and a CMA Award. That same year, Stuart received his "right of passage" as he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, twenty years after he first appeared there on stage with Flatt's band.

And Stuart continues to grow and record.

Drawing on his diverse background, his encyclopedic knowledge of lesser known musical nuggets...and his reverence for history...Stuart embarked on a new album last year succinctly titled, Country Music. And he started in the last place one might look for inspiration: the beginning.

"I went back home to Mississippi and just spent time out in the country, in the woods," Stuart said. "I kept the family farm there with the same pine trees, I could hear the same train whistles, see the same stars, and feel the same atmosphere that inspired me to love country music and play it when I was a kid, before I ever knew anything about doing it for a living.

"When I was down there again last year, something really incredible occurred. The same thing happened inside me. It had come time to clear out everything inside myself and plant a new crop.

"I had a good mission in mind with this project," he explained. "I absolutely did what I was supposed to the songs people had requested, that they had been longing for, and the music that I had been wanting to do...when you go back to the source, a timeless quality appears."

So, last summer, Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, put together a tour package called the 'Electric Barnyard' with Merle Haggard and Connie Smith and hit the back roads of America.

"The music was simply magic," stated Stuart. "We took the heart and soul of country music.

"The world had changed...there was an evolution of country music, and evolution of country fans and I had yet to make a statement about it. That's what this album is...a reflection of my vision of the music I truly love. I didn't really return to my roots, I'm a product of my roots. I'm part of that stream of country music that blends plenty of heart. It's a symphony blistered by my love of rock and roll. It's where I was looking from at the moment."

Fittingly, Stuart's reflection included a look back at his long time friend, Johnny Cash.

"I didn't say much at the time of his death," Stuart said. "Everybody else said what I was thinking... I figured the best thing I could do was what he would have done...shut up and play my songs. He was one of my dearest friends and the world doesn't turn as well without him."

But in Stuart, music fans can find a consolation in that there exists a continuum to the music of Cash, Flatt, Watson and other giants. In Stuart, you get history...and a little Mississippi bottomland with your mandolin.

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