Country Contradiction Is Natural For Stuart

This appeared in the Regina Leader-Post - June 24, 2015

Marty Stuart recognizes the contradiction of country artists who are dedicated to gospel music but he also understands how that contradiction came to be.

Stuart’s latest album, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, is a perfect example of how the honky-tonk side of country music can blend successfully with the spiritual messages of gospel music. The two-disc set, which was released on September 30, 2014, features one disc of traditional country music and one disc of gospel favourites.

The 56-year-old Stuart has a simple explanation of how the two genres became linked.

“Country music has always enjoyed a very unique relationship with gospel music and I think it’s primarily because most country performers probably got their start singing in church,” explained Stuart during a recent telephone interview. “It’s just embedded in most of us. It’s definitely embedded in me.

“I always put myself in the position that if you went to see Hank Williams and he was falling off the stage, at some point he would’ve said, ‘Now neighbours, we’re going to do this song,’ and then he’d do 'I Saw The Light' and the crowd would totally understand. The old pioneers made that inroad with country audiences and country audiences, many of them, go to country shows on Saturday night and then go to church on Sunday morning so they understand both sides.

“I don’t see any difference myself.”

The new album is comprised of 23 tracks — 11 on Saturday Night and 12 on Sunday Morning. Stuart never specifically set out to record a double album. In fact, he really didn’t have a plan at all for a concept album.
“It started with one song,” explained Stuart. “We recorded 'Uncloudy Day' with Mavis Staples nine years before we ever did anything. There was no reason to record that song simply other than the fact that Mavis was in Nashville and we’d worked with her before and we just simply did it.

“I thought it was special but I didn’t know what to do with it so I held onto it. As time went on, a gospel record grew on top of that song and as time went on, a country record grew on the other side and one day it just appeared that it should be a double record project but it really didn’t start that way.”

Yet even when Stuart committed to the double album concept, the project wasn’t one that moved quickly to completion. Finalizing the record was an ongoing and challenging experience for Stuart.

“There were several times along the way that I thought I had it, where I thought I had the perfect balance of songs and I’d live with it but then I’d go, ‘Nope, that’s not it,’ ” said Stuart. “I would just keep flipping songs in and out of both sides until one day I played it and I thought, ‘That’s truly it. Yes, that’s truly it.’

“I mean I released two or three other records along side of this thing while I was waiting for it to come into focus. I built a house, wrote a couple of books and toured but this was one I felt was worth waiting on and I’m glad I did.”

It’s common among musicians to revisit their albums and in hindsight, fixate on things that could’ve be done differently on the recording.

Does Stuart have any regrets about how Saturday Night & Sunday Morning came out?

“I don’t think so, I really don’t. It’s one of those things — I was certain when I signed off on it,” Stuart said. “I decided I was going to turn it over to the ages and if sold just one copy and nobody cared or if it went to the moon, it would be all the same to me because I believed in this record and I believed that it was good.”

With five Grammy Awards to his credit, Stuart spent the 1980s and 1990s in mainstream country, with hits like 'Tempted', 'Cry! Cry! Cry!' and 'Hillbilly Rock'. In 2000 he changed directions, forming the Fabulous Superlatives. Stuart’s focus changed from chasing hit singles to releasing and performing music that he felt would allow country music to take its place on the arts pantheon alongside jazz, ballet and classical music.

With the Fabulous Superlatives (Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Paul Martin) at his side, Stuart has moved his career into perhaps its most successful chapter.

“If I died today, (my legacy) is in a fairly respectable place. I’d regret it because I didn’t get the job finished but I feel I’ve done something other than just trying to be a star now,” said Stuart. “I’ve had the biggest success in my life since those days and that’s the truth. It was the thing to do at the time and it ran its course. It had a great season so I have nothing but fond memories of it, it was a great time.

“There simply came a time to write a new chapter.”

By Jeff Dedekker

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