Remarkable Comes To Town

Marty Stuart set to perform as part of Rhythm & Roots Reunion

This appeared on - September 15, 2011

Make way for country music’s renaissance man.

Straight out of Philadelphia, Mississippi by way of Nashville, Tennessee comes the cowboy boots wearing, Fender Telecaster slinging, hard country singing, silver-haired pistol son of many a country gun.

Call him Marty Stuart.

Set to launch during Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots on September 17 from the State Street Stage, Stuart rides astride country music’s halcyon past while rocketing forth into the future. He’s no relic. He’s no fake. Underscore real and attach a rooster-haired, rhinestoned look and there’s Stuart. Brand his career remarkable.

“Blessed,” Stuart said via one of several recent interviews in regards to his roots. “To make something original, that was my goal. Authenticity has a way of sticking around.”

Roots speak to the essence of Stuart. There’s country and there’s bluegrass, blues, rock, gospel and soul music, too. And then there’s Marty Stuart.

“Thank you,” Stuart said. “Blame it on Mississippi. That’s where all that stuff came from. I embraced it and it’s been good to me. There’s so much out there to enjoy.”

Album to album throughout his storied career, those whose shoulders he stands upon appear alongside Stuart like guiding lights.

“I’ve got one on (the album Compadres’ with Merle Haggard on ‘Farmer’s Blues,’” Stuart said. “There’s one of me and Johnny Cash. And there’s a song on there that I recorded using Jimmie Rodgers’ guitar.”

Inspiration seethes at the center of Stuart. Hear it when he sings, see it in his eyes, notice it in the notes played on his terrific Fender Telecaster guitar. Oh, and when inspiration comes to him?

“I feel a smile on my face,” he said. “I feel like something inside me clicks and urges me. It’s a divine feeling. I play a different way. I sing a different way. It’s just business up until then. And I never know when it’s gonna come.”

And when it comes to Stuart, sometimes the music floods like the raging Mississippi River well beyond its banks. For example, he released three albums in 2005, each connected yet different, like branches from a tree.

Look at Stuart as Lewis and Clark wrapped up in a guitar-toting, twanging explorative soul. Gospel reverberates along the same pew with country music in Stuart’s church of music. He worships each. For example, there’s his gospel album Souls' Chapel.

“With Souls' Chapel I went to church while ‘Badlands’ is more of a spiritual album, and then the Ryman album, that was done in the Mother Church of Country Music,” Stuart said. “These are my church house trilogy.”

Busy bee Stuart’s Souls' Chapel from 2005 sounds like a meeting at church whereby blues, gospel and country music meet in the pews to get down to the music in the name of the Lord.

“That’s close enough for me,” Stuart said. “Gospel music is at the very core of my being. It’s the wellspring of my spirit. The setting is the Mississippi Delta. That’s home for me. It was the crossroads of blues and country and gospel and rock ‘n’ roll. It originated under one roof. I didn’t want this to be the token hillbilly gospel music record.”

Now take Stuart’s Badlands record from 2005. Johnny Cash’s 1964 groundbreaker Bitter Tears took a hard look at the plight of Native Americans. Stuart’s Badlands sort of picks up where Cash’s left off.

“It was the spiritual father of it,” Stuart said. “Also, I was raised in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which is the heart of the Choctaw Nation. I was well aware that they needed an outside voice to arbitrate. I had to make Badlands.”

Add his latest album, Ghost Train (The Studio B Session).

Tie 'em all with a strong rope of authenticity. That word like many others belongs at the heart of Stuart and his music. He protects them seemingly with every song sung.

“You need to watch authenticity, and we’re getting away from that,” Stuart said. “Johnny Cash brought a story to the table. Merle Haggard brings stories. It was like they brought letters from home, from where they came from."

By Tom Netherland

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