Album Takes Marty Stuart From Saturday Rock To Sunday Gospel

This appeared on - September 28, 2014


From the honky tonk to the house of worship, Marty Stuart's got you covered. His new double album, "Saturday Night And Sunday Morning," is perfect for the weekend.


MARTY STUART AND THE FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES: (Singing) Well, Joshua was a holy man, charismatic leader of a backwoods band, a real rides his rock 'n roll to cats supreme, a call to shine the light on Moses dream.

WERTHEIMER: The legendary country musician with the big hair - we almost have the same hairdo - has spent nearly a decade building this new album with his band The Fabulous Superlatives. Marty Stuart joins me now from Spotland Productions in Nashville. Welcome.

MARTY STUART: Hello, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Hi. Now it's Sunday morning. So we're going to start with that side of the record. This is a track called "That Gospel Music."


MARTY STUART AND THE FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES: (Singing). Well, I was headed home from work when my car broke down. I started walking when I heard that joyful sound. It was gospel music coming from a church that's down the street. Hallelujah brother.

WERTHEIMER: Some of these gospel songs that you included rock out doubts just like the Saturday night songs do.

STUART: Well, yeah. (Laughter). At the end of this Sunday morning recording, there's a - you'll hear lady's voice named Pastor Evelyn Hubbard. And Pastor Evelyn is the founder and overseer of the Commerce Missionary Baptist Church in Robinsonville, Mississippi - North Mississippi, right off of Highway 61. And the watch word at her services any Sunday morning is Joy. And there's a very razor-thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning when it comes to the joy factor.


WERTHEIMER: I have read that you and your band, the Fabulous Superlatives, learned to sing together by singing gospel music. Is that right?

STUART: Absolutely. The way we learned to sing was in dressing rooms and going up and down the road in tour buses. Just - we learned about each other as people and as musicians, you know, spiritually - whatever, singing gospel songs. And it has served as a wonderful foundation for our harmony structure and just a general good singing all the way around.


MARTY STUART AND THE FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES: (Singing). Heaven, heaven, heaven, oooh-oooh-oooh.

WERTHEIMER: I have to say that I didn't really realize that you guys could sing like that. I guess when you rock out, you sort of miss all that.

STUART: Well, sure. Harry Stinson is a globally regarded vocalist and vocal arranger and so is Paul Martin. So they bring a sophistication to the vocal arrangements that I probably never could. Coming from bluegrass background, I totally understand family harmonies. But they bring a little extra something. This particular song called "Heaven," all four of us wrote this. And that's when gospel music kind of took on a different plateau, if you will, when we went from singing other people's songs to writing our own.

WERTHEIMER: But one of the songs on the Sunday side, the first song, is a real classic - "Uncloudy Day" written by Roebuck Staples, who was known as Pops. You recorded it with Mavis Staples.


MAVIS STAPLES AND MARTY STUART AND THE FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES: (Singing). Well, lord. They tell me yes, oh, yes. They tell me. Lord, they tell me now. Yes, oh, yes, they tell me. I got a home. Yes, oh, yes, they tell me. Beyond the sky. Oh, yes, they tell me. Well, well...

STUART: The Staples were like family to me. Pop Staples was one of my true mentors. And so this particular song, "Uncloudy Day," to this day, Linda, it still sounds like one of the greatest offerings to the American gospel song book. I love the Staples. And Mavis and Evan, after Pops died, gave me his guitar so that's his guitar you're listening to.

WERTHEIMER: Do you play Pop Staples guitar very often?

STUART: When the song calls for it. And he had a special tuning. He tuned a half step down, used a lot of tremolo on it. He sounded like a ghost playing in a cotton field. It was wonderful. I called it an instrument of light. I've tried to play country music on it and rock 'n roll, it kind of spits it back out. But when you get around to these kind of songs, it comes to life in a wonderful way.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now some of the music that you write, although it's obviously contemporary, also has a kind of an archival feel to it. The sound and the lyrics are sort of throwbacks to classic country themes and language. I'm thinking here of Geraldine.

STUART: (Laughter). Yeah.


STUART: (Singing). Well, I think she's going to Memphis, done found another man. Well, they tell me he's a gambler. He plays a winning hand. Got a pocket full of money. Got a long, black Cadillac. Just me and Mississippi, I ain't never coming back. Geraldine. Geraldine. Why you do me like you do? Why you have to be so mean? Geraldine.

STUART: That would be from the Saturday night side of the record.


WERTHEIMER: Why you have to be so mean, Geraldine?

STUART: Why you have to be so mean, Geraldine? Please tell me. There was a fellow from Meridian, Mississippi named Jimmy Rodgers who's regarded of the father of country music - America's blue yodeler. And what he did that was so important to me was he established the themes in country music upon which the empire of country music now stands - jailhouse, trains, cheating, drinking mother, murder, sin, redemption, gambling, you know, hobo-ing, rambling, raking, you know, all those things that country music is sometimes cliched for these days. But I still love those themes, and every single one of them is still relevant.

WERTHEIMER: Now you have done straight-ahead country albums. You've done other gospel albums. Why did you decide just to do it altogether?

STUART: Country music shares a very unique relationship with gospel music. I've noticed down through the years whether it was Hank Williams on a rough night when he wasn't probably in the greatest shape, somewhere along the way, he tipped his hat and said, friends, we'd like to do you a gospel song. And he probably sang "I Saw The Light." And when you do that and you present it right just to make it a part of the evening, I think country fans always respond to it. And if when we do our job right, it should offer a little hope and inspiration. And that's simply reflection of my life and how I believe and how I've been trained.

WERTHEIMER: Marty Stuart. His new two-sided album is called "Saturday Night And Sunday Morning." It comes out Tuesday. Thank you very, very much.

STUART: Thank you, Linda. Thanks for having me on your show. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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