Marty Stuart

Country Music

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Marty Stuart's Country Music is not, as some have said, a radical departure from his already eclectic body of work. As to whether it's "the album of his life," is also up for debate, since he doesn't sound here like he's slowing down. Stuart has given us one of the most consistent catalogues in the country genre since 1980, and has few peers in terms of quality -- George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, and a few others are in his league. This is his first full-on country-rock record and, teamed with grand master engineer/producer Justin Niebank (Widespread Panic, the Subdudes, etc.), Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives turn old nuggets such as "A Satisfied Mind" and Johnny Cash's "Walls of a Prison" (the tracks which open and close the album, respectively) into wooly country-rockers with killer three- and four-part harmonies and burning guitars, Hammond B3s, mandolins, pedal-steel guitars, and rocking drums. On the other hand, newer songs by the performer and a handful of others are already revved up and cut to fly. This is a rock & roll record cut from the man vein of honky tonk country, and the country that it comes from is pure. Listen to "Farmer's Blues," a sweet, slow, two-step drenched in pedal steel with a duet vocal by Merle Haggard, or the burning-down blues-rock with dobro and banjo of "Tip Your Hat" with Uncle Josh Graves and Earl Scruggs. But even straight-up rockers such as "Sundown in Nashville," "By George" (which has dumb lyrics but still kicks ass), "Wishful Thinkin'," and "Too Much Month" feel as if they could have been played by a rowdier version of Rockpile, while the mid-tempo tracks ("Fool for Love," "Here I Am," "If You Wanted Me Around") only serve to underscore the influences of Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. Ultimately, this album is relentless in both its attack and in the pleasure it provides to the listener. There are hot licks everywhere, with great songs, vocals, and a tapestry of moods, textures, and shades that serve to leave one impression: Stuart's radical experimentation of the last ten years has resulted in his finest moment thus far. He offers a prolonged look at how inseparable country and rock & roll are from one another.

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