Christmas Fest a "Marty" Party

This appeared in The Seminole Tribune - December 1996

Recording artist and TNN television star Marty Stuart will join blues woman Wendy Rich, flautist Sonny Nevaquaya, song man Junior Battiest, Seminole Chief Jim Billie and gypsy guitarists Reuben and Rose on the entertainment stage, Friday night at the Broward County Convention Center, for the Seminole Tribe of Florida's annual Tribal Christmas Party.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the gala affair, which is expected to draw more than 1,500 Tribal members, staff, friends and special guests to the Convention Center's grand ballroom. Stuart and his band, The Rock and Roll Cowboys, are making a special trip from Nashville to put on "Marty's Christmas Party" for the Seminole Tribe event.

The title of Marty Stuart's new MCA album, Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best, doesn't tell half the story. What Marty Stuart does best is bring together all kinds of moving music--honky tonk, hillbilly, rock, traditional country, progressive country--in a way that brings out the best of all styles.

Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best was inspired by Stuart's last album, The Marty Party Hit Pack. "The Hit Pack summed up my music to that point," he explained. "But it wasn't a stopping point, it was just a halfway point. I wanted to keep evolving, go deeper, get bigger, get better."

Stuart went looking for magic to the album--in songs, in places, in co-writers, in people he talked to. Then, in the week before he started recording, the magic found him. He had bought some items that belonged to Hank Williams Sr., and Williams' original manuscript of "Cold Cold Heart" was discovered among them. Then he flew to California to perform with Bonnie Raitt at NAMM, the musical instrument makers' trade show. "That same night, I got to meet John Lee Hooker. I bumped into Johnny Cash on the plane and he asked me to play on his album with Tom Petty, which I did later that week. I flew back to play the Opry on Saturday night. On Sunday morning I went to a black church and that afternoon I picked with Earl Scruggs and Grandpa Jones. The next day I started this record. All these blessings came in one week, all these 'Go' signs."

The album kicks off with Stuart reuniting with Travis Tritt for a duet on "Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best." "Stuart wrote the song on a tour bus in Europe. "We had a 24-hour bus ride and almost everybody was looking for a ways to get off the bus and get on the airplane," he recalled. "I used the bus and stayed in the back. This is one of the songs that came out of it. I knew the second I cut the demo it was something we could do." Stuart and Tritt first teamed up in 1991 for "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," which led to their highly successful No Hats Tour. They hit the road again together in 1996 for the Double Trouble Tour.

After the honky tonk of the title track, Stuart and his producers Tony Brown and Justin Niebank take off. "Country Girls" and "Rocket Ship" have the same cool groove that propelled him into the Top 10 in 1990 with "Hillbilly Rock." (He wrote them both with his "Hillbilly Rock" co-writer Paul Kennerley.) They contrast with Stuart's solo acoustic guitar picking on the love song "Shelter From The Storm," which he co-wrote with Kostas, and the intimate, troubled message of "So Many People," about people giving up on love.

An infectious rhythm bubbles under Marty's vocal on "I'll Be There For You," and a heavy riff on a 12 sting electric guitar punctuates "Sweet Love," written by Del Shannon and reworked by Stuart. At the other end of the spectrum, "Country," is a straight forward country song that paints a portrait of a man who's validated, unapologetic stone/country," "You Can't Stop Love" (also written with Kostas) and "Thanks To You" (written with Gary Nicholson) are universal in appeal.

"The Mississippi Mudcat And Sister Sheryl Crow" best illustrates the unlimited range of elements Stuart brings to a record. The introduction to the song is an interview with bluegrass great Jimmy Martin talking about his "Country Music" dogs, who are named after whatever country star they sound like when they bark. With the scene set for hard-core tells a fantastic story of an incident one night on a country back road. It can be said for "The Mississippi Mudcat and sister Sheryl Crow" and for the entire album: Only Stuart could pull it off.

Marty Stuart grew up partly in Mississippi and the rest of the road. He was only thirteen when his mandolin playing landed him a job in Lester Flatt's Bluegrass Band. After Flatt's death in 1979, he played with fiddler Vasser Clements and acoustic guitar great Doc Watson before beginning a six-year stint as a guitarist with country legend Johnny Cash.

Stuart graduated to his own solo album in 1982 with Busy Bee Cafe on the independent Sugar Hill label. His studio band included such notables as Doc Watson, Merle Watson and Johnny Cash on guitar, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Carl Jackson on banjo. That led to a deal with Columbia Records and his first top 20 hit in 1985 with "Arlene," followed in 1986 by the album Marty Stuart.

Stuart moved to MCA in 1989 and broke into the top 10 for the first time in 1990 with a song and album title that described not only Stuart himself by a new direction for country music: Hillbilly Rock. As the hillbilly crusader, his reverence for the masters of country music art form far beyond his music. The guitar he uses on stage was country-rock pioneer Clarence White's 1954 Fender Telecaster with a steel guitar like B-string bender. He also plays a Martin D-45 formerly owned by Hank Williams Sr. and a D-28 that was Lester Flatt's. Selections from his collection of country music memorabilia will be a major exhibit at the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum in 1996.

Stuart's second MCA album, Tempted, which was certified gold this year, yielded four hits: the title cut, "Little Things", "Till I Found You" and "Burn Me Down." In the meantime, his duet with Travis Tritt, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin", became a hit record. They won a Vocal Event of the Year Award from the Country Music Association in 1992 and a Grammy the next year. Stuart also became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1992, 20 years after his first appearance on the Opry stage at the age of 13.

His critically acclaimed fourth album, Love And Luck, was one of many noteworthy Marty Stuart sessions in 1994. He won his second Grammy for his performance on "Red Wing" from asleep at the wheel's Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills. He was featured on Mama's Hungry Eyes: The Merle Haggard Tribute. On It's Now Or Never - The Tribute To Elvis he sang "Don't Be Cruel," backed by the Jordanaires, which became the first single from the TV special and the album. He teamed up with the Staple Singers for a performance of "The Weight" on the Rhythm Country and Blues project. He also contributed to the Red Hot + Country AIDS benefit album.

The Marty Party Hit Pack, released in 1995, was a combination greatest hits package and sampler of the many sides of Stuart's talents. It spawned a highly successful series of "Marty Party" specials on the Nashville Network. "I get to call up my friends and pay them to play with me," Stuart said. "It's like TNN gave me a box of crayons and a budget and said, "Go have fun."

While preparing for his first album, Stuart found time to participate in several event records: he duetted with Steve Earle on the Buddy Holly Tribute notfadeaway, with Willie Nelson for the Olympic One Voice album, and sang with George Jones, as well as played on most of the tracks, for Jones' The Bradley Barn Sessions. Stuart's songwriting has won him 5 BMI Awards, and he's had songs recorded by numerous artist, from George Straight, Wade Hayes and Buck Owens to Travis Tritt and Wynonna. He is the spokesperson for the TBS "Roots Of Country Music" series and is the International Ambassador of tourism for the city of Nashville. Stuart also sings the Mazda truck radio and TV commercials that are now airing nationally.

For Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best, Stuart took the best songs from the last year-and-a-half of song writing and song-searching. Also, he went back to recording the old-fashioned way--at night. " I rediscovered that I was a vampire,"he said. "I decided I wasn't going to make any music until the sun went down, and the music was flowing."

Honkey Tonkin's What I Do Best presents Marty Stuart at his natural best, making good music, no matter what time or place it comes from. "It's just about being fearless and having fun," he said. "It's like somebody said to me: You sounded like you grew up, but you got over it."

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