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Marty Stuart

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One of country's most historically minded new traditionalists, Marty Stuart was also one of the most eclectic, moving between honky tonk, rockabilly, country-rock, traditional country, and bluegrass. He was also one of the more flamboyant showmen, supporting his party-hearty image with a wardrobe of rhinestone-laden Nudie suits. Stuart was born in Philadelphia, MS, in 1958 and grew up obsessed with country music. He learned guitar and mandolin as a child and by age 12 was performing with the bluegrass group the Sullivans. He soon met Lester Flatt bandmember Roland White, which led to an invitation to play a Labor Day gig in Delaware with the band in 1972. Flatt invited Stuart to join the band permanently and took responsibility for overseeing the teenager's continued education. Stuart stayed with Flatt up until the legendary bluegrass master broke up his band in 1978 for health reasons; he passed away the following year. Stuart moved on, playing with fiddler Vassar Clements and guitarist Doc Watson while doing session work, and was invited to join Johnny Cash's backing band in 1980. In 1978 Stuart had released his first LP, With a Little Help from My Friends (re-released in 1992 as The Slim Richey Sessions), but in 1982 he stepped out to record a more high-profile solo album, Busy Bee Cafe, an informal jam session for Sugar Hill with guest spots by Cash, Watson, and Earl Scruggs, among others. The following year, he married Cash's daughter Cindy. He left Cash's band in 1985 to pursue a solo career. He signed with Columbia and released a self-titled label debut album in 1986. Despite a Top 20 country hit in "Arlene," the record didn't sell very well, and Columbia refused to issue his completed follow-up, Let There Be Country. Stuart's marriage also broke up in 1988, and he returned home to Mississippi to gather his wits. Jerry Sullivan invited him to rejoin the Sullivans as mandolinist, which recharged Stuart's confidence for a return to Nashville.

Stuart landed a deal with MCA in 1989 and released his label debut, Hillbilly Rock, later that year. This time he was more successful, landing a Top Ten hit with the title track and earning positive reviews from critics, who compared his sensibility to that of Dwight Yoakam. Released in 1991, Tempted was successful critically and commercially as well and spawned three Top Ten hits in the title cut, "Little Things," and "Burn Me Down." In the wake of Stuart's breakthrough, Columbia finally released Let There Be Country in 1992. Stuart also completed his official follow-up, This One's Gonna Hurt You, which featured a Top Ten hit in the title duet with Travis Tritt and became his first gold album. Though he'd earned a fervent following, Stuart found these successes hard to duplicate -- 1994's Love and Luck saw his sales slipping, and perhaps in response, MCA issued the hits and rarities compilation The Marty Party Hit Pack. That in turn led to a series of Marty Party concert specials on The Nashville Network. However, 1996's Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best failed to win the wide critical acclaim of its predecessors.

Stuart was already moving on to other concerns as well. He'd acquired an extensive collection of country memorabilia by that point and in 1996 won his first term as president of the Country Music Foundation (which oversees the Country Music Hall of Fame); he would serve in that capacity through 2002. He also remarried in 1997, to fellow country singer Connie Smith (who'd first made an impression on him during his teen years). When he returned to recording, it was in 1999 with The Pilgrim, a concept album based in country tradition, yet with a distinct progressive inclination. Despite strong reviews, it didn't sell well, and Stuart later parted ways with MCA. He went on to sign with Sony's Nashville division and released his label debut, simply titled Country Music, in the summer of 2003, followed by Souls' Chapel and Badlands in 2005. A live bluegrass record, Live at the Ryman, appeared early in 2006. Stuart returned to recording in 2010 with a fast-paced traditional honky tonk album called Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, recorded at RCA's legendary Nashville facility.

~ Steve Huey, All
GRAMMY-winner and American music icon Marty Stuart will release his second album for Sugar Hill Records entitled Nashville, Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down on April 24th. The ten song collection, almost entirely written by Marty, features his touring band of musical missionaries The Fabulous Superlatives. Nashville staples Buck Trent, Kenny Lovelace, and Robbie Turner are joined by country music royalty Hank Williams III and Lorrie Carter Bennett (The Carter Family) on harmony vocals to fill out the cast.

Marty Stuart arrived in Nashville on Labor Day weekend, 1972. “I came to Nashville from the land of Jimmie Rodgers, looking for a place, a place to belong inside the world of country music. It was a country boy Hollywood, the air castle of the South, a dream factory.” 40 years, a decade worth of hits and a full round of hillbilly stardom later, Stuart has hillbilly rocked himself back to the bosom of traditional country music.

“When I reconnected with traditional country music I found myself, my calling,” says Stuart. “The kind that is timeless, beautiful, beyond trend, the empowering force, the reflection of a people and a culture. The kind of country music that the working man and scholars alike call home. The job seemed to be to champion it, love it, protect it, care for its people, attempt to write a new chapter for it and to make sure that everybody understands that it’s alive and well in the 21st century.” Stuart has done that with his acclaimed collection of country music memorabilia and treasures which currently tours across the country, and with his Marty Stuart Show on RFD TV which provides a platform for some of Nashville’s classic artists to perform on a nationally syndicated program.

“When I first came to Nashville . . . the most outlaw thing you could possibly do around here was to take country music and blow it up into rock & roll. Mission accomplished! Today, the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music.” With Tear The Woodpile Down, the latest chapter in the Marty Stuart story, he’s doing just that.

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