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Marty Stuart: Now That’s Country! The Definitive Collection Vol. 1 (Hump Head/Wrasse) Out now


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)




On my very first trip to Nashville in 2004, I went into the fabulous but sadly now closed Tower Records store, and filled two shopping baskets with CDs. A helpful member of staff becoming my “personal shopper”.

While digging out some great, great new music, and also replacing albums I used to own on vinyl, a guy walked into the store and caused quite a stir. He grabbed a basket and was picking a few CDs when every now and then, someone would spot his face and get into conversation and shake his hand.

He was very approachable and greeted everyone with the same smile, and did not have an issue with being asked for an autograph or to have his photograph taken. I have to admit, even though his face looked familiar, I did not recognise him and got a mouthful from some chap I asked, and was barked at for not knowing that this was the legendary country artist Marty Stuart in front of me.

Funny thing was; I was about 10 feet away from several racks of his CDs, with his tanned face and amazing perfect silver hair staring back at me! So I was in the presence of Nashville Royalty. But that happens every day and night in that Music City. There’s a saying there: “Only in Nashville”. Where you never know who is going to turn up in a bar or an eaterie.

After a while, the man born John Martin Stuart was left alone and ended up next to me in the racks, both of us focused on what goodies we could unearth. He looked over, nodded and said hello, and when I spoke, asked me which part of the UK I was from. I said it made a pleasant change not to have someone think I was from Australia, as quite often, the Brit’ accent can be mistaken for Oz over there.

He was a very pleasant, down-to-earth guy and we chatted for maybe 15 minutes and looked at what each of us was buying, and discussed the music, Nashville, The UK, his trips over here, his career and what he was doing at that time. When he found out I was out there plugging a UK artist and record, he asked for a copy and the information about it.

We said goodbye, and both carried on with the very serious task of grabbing some more CDs to take home. I came back to GB with a pull-along case with nothing in it but CDs; some I had bought there and at a fabulous second-hand store called The Great Escape which is well worth a trip if you are in Nashville, and many I had been given by music publishers, songwriters, song pluggers, record labels and artists, as demos.

A few weeks later, I received an email (or it may have been a fax back then…) from Marty Stuart, thanking me for the CD and telling me how much he enjoyed the record, and next time he was in the UK, we should catch up. How lovely was that. We never did meet again……………

So, when a UK record label asked me if I had received this new double disc collection from the legend and I hadn’t, I was very keen to get hold of a copy. I can confirm, it is well worth adding to your music collection. If you are a Marty fan, you will probably already have it. If you are new to his music, jump right in, and be warned: his music is addictive, and you’ll want to dig into his back catalogue, no doubt.

The 59-year-old star still has a big following here, and has just completed a very successful tour of the UK with his band, and support from a UK band who are on the verge of big things: The Wandering Hearts, which features my old mate Tim Jones.

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives played the Country2Country festival this year at London’s O2 Arena back in March, and went down a storm. He is a great musician, singer, songwriter, band leader, historian and a charismatic entertainer. A genuine country legend.

The keeper of the flame of traditional country, while all the young pretenders are singing about the latest trends – trucks and tractors right now! – and chasing hits on the Nashville conveyor belt, Marty never changes his path, and is one of the last links to the country greats such as Cash, Jones, Haggard and their ilk.

He mixes it up as regards the genres he covers; Southern rock, bluegrass, blues, rock and roll, honky tonk, country, boogie and especially rockabilly. Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Stuart is of French, Scottish, English, Choctaw, and Colombian descent. He started playing guitar and mandolin in a bluegrass band when he was 12.

This two disc, 44 track “Best Of” set, covers his entire career, including tracks from his latest album “Way Out West” which came out in February this year (2017) on this same UK label, Hump Head, and won praise with such response as “brilliant”, “truly magical” and “absolutely enchanting from start to finish.”

He includes three tracks here from his much sought after 2005 album, “Badlands: Ballads Of The Lakota”, his 13th studio album, which highlighted the plight of Native Americans.

He has some big stars join him on the new record, including “The Man In Black”, Johnny Cash, the inimitable George Jones, Outlaw superstar Merle Haggard, the brilliant Steve Earle, Uncle “Josh” Graves, Travis Tritt, Earl Scruggs and Marty’s wife for the last 20 years, the legendary country star Connie Smith. He was previously married to Cindy Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, for five years until 1988.

The first CD opens with the Johnny Cash duet “Doin’ My Time”, and closes at track 22, with Marty’s “Burn Me Down”.  A rousing live version of “Orange Blossom Special” pops up on the first CD.

Disc two kicks off with Travis Tritt – who won two Grammy awards with duets sung with Marty, but not this song – joining Marty for the  superb “Honky Tonkin’s What I Do Best”. The final cut on this disc is Marty’s “Ghost Train Four-oh-Ten”.

Apart from a bumper 44 tracks, the big name guests and Marty’s timeless talents across two and a half hours of superb music, the great thing about this collection is; the big clue on the front of the CD cover. “Volume 1”.

With such a long career stretching across nearly five decades, which has earned him a current fortune of an estimated $8 million,  it would be impossible for the man to cram all his best work on to one volume. So one assumes we are in for more treats in the future…Bring it on!


By Simon Redley




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