Marty Stuart Revisits Traditional Country On "Train"

This appeared on Reuters - August 7, 2010

After four decades in country music, Marty Stuart has every right to just kick back. Instead, he's striking more deals than ever, making sure his new recording, Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, is everywhere from TV to bookstores to museums.

Promoting the album is just one project the Mississippi native has on his plate. He hosts The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV and has earned kudos for Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey, a historical collection of memorabilia that has been displayed at the Tennessee State Museum. A noted country music historian, Stuart published a photography book in 2008, Country Music: The Masters, that features a powerful cover image of Johnny Cash shot just days before his death. He is going to be the subject of a documentary directed by Jason Hatley, whose previous work was the critically acclaimed Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm.

For Stuart, Ghost Train (out August 24 on Sugar Hill Records) represents a homecoming in several ways. It reunites him with Sugar Hill, the label that released 1982's Busy Bee Cafe. He recorded the album in Nashville's historic RCA Studio B, where he had his first recording session, at age 13.

Ghost Train is also a return to his traditional country roots after he explored Delta gospel on 2005's Souls' Chapel, Native American sounds on 2005's Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota and bluegrass on 2006's Live at the Ryman, all released on his own Superlatone Records.

"It's not about the past," he says of the traditional country fare on Ghost Train. "It's about writing a brand-new chapter."

The album, which he recorded with his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, also includes a duet with his wife, Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith, on "I Run to You." He first met Smith when he was 12 and told his mom he was going to marry the famous singer. "It took 25 years to figure it out, but it worked," he says.

The album also features "Hangman," a song he wrote with Cash mere days before he died. Stuart had just taken a private tour of Folsom Prison, where Cash recorded his landmark live album. "I started talking about what a rotten job it must have been to be a hangman," Stuart says. "We got to talking about the misery that a man in that position would take home with him at the end of every day."

Stuart's new release will also gain exposure from a deal with Nashville's Davis-Kidd Booksellers. He'll serve as a country music "curator" for the retailer, recommending the top 100 country albums of all time.

"It's wonderful when country radio is onboard, but when that goes away, I've had to find any way possible to get the message out," Stuart says. "Davis-Kidd is really giving traditional country music full (exposure), and I get to pick out all my favorites, all the essentials that I would recommend to somebody that had never heard of country music before. It's pretty awesome, and I'm going to take a photo exhibit down there, put up a few costumes and really trick the place out."

By Deborah Evans Price

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