Stuart Stands Strong For Tradition

This appeared in  the Quad-City Times - October 31, 2013

From 1989 to 1997, Marty Stuart notched 14 songs on country's top-40 charts.

But looking back, he said, "I wouldn't give you 30 cents for what I did in the '90s compared to these days.

"This is the meaningful stuff, the lasting stuff," he said of a renaissance that began with the 1999 concept album The Pilgrim.

"As the 21st century got closer, I thought, 'It's not about drumming up the past. That really is not the issue,' " he recalled while driving through Nashville last week. "The issue is lassoing what's left of the culture, shining it up, re-presenting it and bringing new songs and new artists alongside to further the chapter. That became the mission."

Stuart has fulfilled that mission in both official and unofficial capacities. He's worked with the Country Music Hall of Fame to give some of the pioneers the credit they deserve, as well as celebrating his musical ancestors and progeny in his self-titled TV variety series on the RFD-TV cable channel.

"The TV show," he said, "is not just about honoring the old legends and loving them and re-presenting them.

"The real thing has been about new songs and opening the door for young people with traditional country music in their hearts and saying, 'Come here, it's alive and well,' " the 55-year-old added.

Stuart said he gets more gratification from discovering and showing off new talent than he did from his own success.

"It's a true bull's-eye," he said. "It's so much more rewarding than just chasing a three-minute hit record down the street anymore. This way, there's an entire culture at bay."

Stuart does play his hit songs, including "This One's Gonna Hurt You," "Tempted" and "Hillbilly Rock," in live shows, such as his date Friday night at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf.

But he also will play his 21st-century work as well as showing off the members of his band, the Fabulous Superlatives.

"I can tell you, it's the most deadly band in country music," he said. "I've been in bands since I was 9 years old, but I've never seen anything like it.

"It works wherever you put it, in any context, from a truck stop parking lot to the White House to Lincoln Center," he added. "It doesn't matter. It's authentic every night."

(The truck stop parking lot comment may be an indirect shout-out to the Quad-City area; he and the band's last appearance around here was as the featured act at the Walcott Truckers Jamboree in the summer of 2011.)

Stuart's latest album, Nashville Part 1: Tear the Woodpile Down, was released in April 2012. He has three more on the way, he said: a follow-up to Woodpile, as well as a "Saturday night-Sunday morning" album called Cathedral and a hillbilly surf instrumental record.

While current country musicians are arguing about what does or doesn't belong in the genre, Stuart said that debate's been going on since Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were introduced in the 1927.

"I guess it's in the ear of the beholder, but it's hard to argue with the roots of country music," Stuart added. "When the needle drops on that, you know what you're listening to."

By David Burke

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