'Country Music Is Gonna Sustain'

Marty Stuart predicts a big shakeup in the sounds coming out of Nashville

This appeared in the Chattanooga Free Press - October 6, 1996

Marty Stuart has watched trends come and go in country music and, while they tend to get under his skin, he feels secure in the knowledge that the country music he loves will survive long after the current crop of black-hat, white T-shirt wearing, rock 'n' country playing, one-hit stars are gone.

"Let's go back to the roots. Regardless of what the current trend says, you've got to look at the foundation and it is solid as a rock," he said.

Stuart will once again join with compatriot Travis Tritt when the duo's Double Trouble Tour makes its way to the UTC Arena October 11. "You've got people like Dwight Yoakam, Travis, Patty Loveless--the heart and soul of country is in good hands. The cash register doesn't always show that.

"I think there is only so much trend that can be swallowed. I look forward to the shake down that's coming in the next few years. I feel sorry for the kids whose moments of fame are only gonna last a few minutes, but country music is gonna sustain."

He wasn't so sure a couple of seeks ago. "I played at Bill Monroe's funeral. I was sitting there waiting to play and I'm watching CMT (Country Music Television) with the sound off listening to Johnny Cash. I'm watching this stuff and have never felt so far away from home in my life," he said.

"People who are just getting on, if they are real about it, they're gonna wind up there with the Johnny Cashes or Merle Haggards. You find the real deal.

"I can get this stuff they're playing today on a '70s rock station. I think the time is coming where the real stuff and those guys are gonna be needed again. Here's what's interesting to me. In the early '70s, country was going through the same thing it is now. It took the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' to show us the way."

Stuart said he recently spent time in California recording with Johnny Cash, with Tom Petty's band serving as the backup players. "It's funny that rock 'n' rollers see country better than we do," he said.

The Grammy-winning Stuart is no stranger to country's roots. His first gig was as a mandolin player with Lester Flatt's bluegrass band. Stuart was 13 at the time. Since he has played with Vassar Clements and Doc Watson and was Johnny Cash's guitar player for six years.

He released his first solo album in 1982. Just as notable was his "backup" band, which had Doc Watson, Merle Watson and Johnny Cash on guitar, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Carl Jackson on banjo. His first Top 20 hit was "Arlene," in 1985.

In 1990, Stuart, who would become known as the Hillbilly Crusader, released Hillbilly Rock, an album and song that further revealed his love and respect for past masters.

Onstage, he plays a 1954 Fender Telecaster once played by country-rock pioneer Clarence White, a Martin D-45 once owned by Hank Williams Sr. and a D-28 that Lester Flatt used to pick.

In 1992, he first teamed with Tritt on "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," a song that became a hit and earned them a Vocal Event of the Year Award from the Country Music Association. His current album, Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best showcases his talents and the music he loves. He's not willing to say it is the final version of where he wants to see country music--at least his version--go.

"I'm playing a lot of mandolin in my house right now. I don't know what that means. We're already experimenting in the studio. My deal is to take my time after the tour and come up with something that is fresh and new. I want to really separate myself from the pack and make a statement.

"I really look forward to the challenge. I really do."

By Barry Courter

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