Marty Stuart released a pair of very fine yet very different recordings in 2005. The first, Souls' Chapel, was an innovative yet rootsy country-gospel set. The second, Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota, was a heart-rending deeply soulful, and sometimes rocking album based on the proud heritage of the Indian-American (the politically correct term in 2007) and what has been lost to the rest of us as this tribe and all others have been decimated by the government sanctioned genocide of the Indian in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Stuart issued a Live at the Ryman disc in 2006, and Compadres is a compilation, along with a pair of unreleased cuts, of Stuart's performances with fellow musicians from country, bluegrass, folk, and gospel musics, almost all of them legends. The unissued tracks are an interesting lot. First up is a beautiful honky tonk duet with Loretta Lynn called "Will You Visit Me on Sunday" (no year), written by the great Dallas Frazier. Both voices are in fine shape, and Lynn's emotive, pure, and classic country alto is just gorgeous. Next is a cover of Pete Townshend's "I Can See for Miles" with Old Crow Medicine Show and his own band the Superlatives. The track keeps its anthemic quality, even with bluegrass fiddle and mandolins ringing along with the acoustic guitars. The vocals are a little ragged and it doesn't quite work for inclusion on any other album, but it would have been a great live collaboration. Other tracks feature Stuart with Steve Earle on a blues rendition of Buddy Holly's "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" with a killer acoustic blues slide intro by Stuart before the rest of the band kicks in with Richard Bennett on electric guitar. This one, included from Not Fade Away from 1996, shows the re-emergence of Earle after a long struggle with his own demons.
Stuart's electric slide work kicks butt, too. He re-creates the performances of the Band and the Staple Singers on Robbie Robertson's "The Weight," from the various-artists comp Rhythm Country and Blues from 1994 which paired performers from each genre; it's as stirring as anything he's ever recorded. Pops was still alive then (hearing him even now sends chills) and Mavis is in excellent voice (is she ever in anything else?). There's an interesting version of "Rawhide" with Lester Flatt -- Stuart was a member of his band as a teenager -- from a 1974 live album by Flatt, and a 1999 performance with Earl Scruggs from The Pilgrim. Stuart plays mandolin on both cuts. Other tracks include duets with B.B. King, Travis Tritt, Johnny Cash (from 1992 when he was Cash's son-in-law); current wife and country music legend Connie Smith, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Mavis Staples (on a killer read of a Pops Staples tune called "Move Along Train" from the Souls' Chapel disc) and Del McCoury. The Jones track "One Woman Man" (from 1994's Bradley Barn Sessions and written by Johnny Horton) is the only thing here that feels like it doesn't work at all, and sad to say, that has a lot more to do with Jones than Stuart. This is for the hardcore Marty Stuart fan no doubt. That said, it does reveal his tremendous versatility as an instrumentalist, song interpreter, and producer, and the eclectic, wide-ranging nature of his musical obsessions.