Marty Stuart

This appeared in The Newport Syndicate - March 2, 2012

Legend seems like a soft a word for Marty Stuart. Self-taught on guitar and mandolin, Stuart had played professionally for two years when he joined Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass in 1972. Stuart was 14.

Over the next seven years, Stuart played with Vassar Clements, Doc Watson, became a member of Johnny Cash’s band and released his debut solo album. Stuart’s early work reflected his bluegrass beginnings, but his third solo album, 1990’s Hillbilly Rock, marked a shift to traditional Country with an electric honky-tonk edge and the hits piled up, culminating in a gold album for 1992’s This One’s Gonna Hurt You.

But commercial success was less gratifying than Stuart imagined and, after a series of marginal releases, he released the epic concept album, The Pilgrim, in 1999. While it fared poorly in sales, it signaled Stuart’s pursuit of creative excellence rather than chart success.

He assembled a band, the Fabulous Superlatives, and a boutique label, Superlatone Records, and released his “church house trilogy” — 2005’s Souls’ Chapel and the conceptual Badlands and 2006’s Live at the Ryman, which cracked the Bluegrass charts’ Top 5. After 2008’s Cool Country Favorites, a quasi-tribute to classic country, Stuart signed with Sugar Hill for 2010’s Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions; his next album, Nashville, Volume 1; Tear the Woodpile Down, is slated for release late next month.

A 1993 Grand Ole Opry inductee, Marty Stuart has written articles and a book, published his photographs of Country stars, assembled an exhibit of his memorabilia for the Tennessee State Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and produced the late Porter Wagoner’s 2007 comeback album Wagonmaster.

By Brian Baker

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