Marty Stuart's New Album Is Half Country,  Half Gospel

This appeared on - October 10, 2014

You probably know legendary country musician Marty Stuart from songs like “Hillbilly Rock.”

Marty Stuart’s new, double album, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, is made up of two distinct parts. The first half is the rockin’ country he’s best known for and the other half is gospel.

Stuart is currently on tour and will be playing in Tucson on Tuesday night.

At first, it may seem like gritty country and gospel music don’t have much in common, but Marty Stuart has always seen a close relationship between them.

"The one thing that linked all of those genres together was the church house, and you know, the sounds of gospel music. It was just kinda in the air. And influenced the blues, it influenced rock n roll, it influenced country music, jazz, classical, and it influenced the literary society down there," Stuart said. "And so I think the church house is kind of ground zero for all things, especially you know, where I come from down there."

This was true in particular during Stuart’s childhood in Philadelphia, Mississippi. In 1964, three civil rights workers were murdered there and national attention turned to the rural town. Stuart says that there were a few songs that defined that time, that still stick with him today, like “Uncloudy Day,” made famous by The Staple Singers. Stuart teamed up with Mavis Staples to record the song for his new album.

"I mean it was an awful time. Unthinkable. But, the song, “Uncloudy Day” by The Staple Singers...kind of became an anthem in that part of the country at that time. You could hear it coming off of radio stations repeatedly in a daily format. You could hear it coming out of people’s houses when you’d walk by," Stuart said. "It just became a part of me."

Stuart has been in the country music world for over 40 years, so he’s seen it change a lot. In that time, country music has become highly commercial, and many argue that it’s strayed from it’s humble beginnings.

"It’s at its very best – when that authenticity shines through…As a culture, I felt it slipping away. I felt it disappearing. And it seemed too precious to me to let that happen," Stuart said. "My mission for the past seven or eight years especially has been to preserve it, promote it, cherish what’s left of it. But the main thing is to introduce it to a new generation of people."

He’s done that through careful archiving, photographing his fellow country legends behind the scenes and collecting country music memorabilia.

His collections have been displayed in museums, giving regular folks a chance to peek in at the lives of so many iconic musicians. And Stuart says that in a way, being so surrounded by the lives and music of other country legends, puts some added pressure on him. But ultimately it makes him better.

"When I think about writing a song if I could in my mind have enough courage – if Hank Williams or Johnny Cash or Patsy Cline or Merle Travis or…Waylon was standing there, and I would go, you know, if I had enough confidence to play it for any one of those people, I know I have a good song in my hands. And so it’s sometimes good to know that those hillbilly angels are up there watching sometimes," Stuart said.

By  Sarah Ventre

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