BITTERSWEET, Ky. — There are a lot of great musicians out there, famous and not so famous; players and singers; long-term and fl ashes in the pan. For me one of the best is Marty Stuart. I can relate to the kind of diversity in his musical releases, but believe me, this guy is no fl ash in the pan.
Stuart has been on one stage or another since he was a kid – and I mean as a youngster getting a start before he was a teenager. He is one of those guys who does it all: great writer, great singer and instrumentalist extraordinaire.
I mean, this guy can pick, and has spent much of his career playing with many of the greats. He began performing with a bluegrass-gospel band known as the Sullivan Family when he was only 12. From there he moved on to Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass. I saw these guys perform back in the 1970s and even though Lester was not in the greatest of health, these guys were amazing and it was a thrill to see them. After Flatt passed away, Stuart made his way to Johnny Cash’s backup band.
During this time he began recording his own albums too, including a mix of bluegrass and country, but there was a rock flavor to his music that really came out, for me, in his 1989 album “Hillbilly Rock.” I really like this release and it remains one of my favorites even today. This marked the beginning of a decade where Stuart shined as an artist not only with his single releases, but his duets with Travis Tritt. The two toured together back then and created some of my favorite duets, including “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’” and “This One’s Going to Hurt (For a Long, Long Time).”
From there he has recorded with the likes of B.B. King and Willie Nelson. He has played with some of the greatest players ever, including Chet Atkins, Earl Scruggs and Vince Gill. He has produced, worked on soundtracks, hosted television shows and continues to perform.
In 1999 he released an album entitled Pilgrim which, while it wasn’t popular with the fans, it is one of the best concept albums in my collection, telling a story throughout and featuring other great performers including Emmylou Harris, Scruggs and Pam Tillis.
This year he has released another album called Way Out West that serves as a tribute of sorts to the American West. Marty Stuart is one of the best all-around musicians in the business, and I look forward to many more years of his performances. Come to the head of the class, Mr. Stuart.
Bluegrass Johnson comes from a long line of country music performers and enjoys a passion for the rhythm and melody. From the hills of Kentucky, he will offer his opinions on a variety of new country music each week.