Documentarian Ken Burns has said, “If country music had a president, it would be Marty Stuart.” In that spirit, we salute the Country Music Hall of Famer & American Roots champion with a six-pack of songs suitable for a President’s Day Marty Party!
1. “Long Train Gone” (1982)
Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Marty Stuart was essentially raised on tour. Stuart was barely a teenager when he became a regular member of Lester Flatt’s band in 1972 followed by a run with Johnny Cash that kicked off the 198os. Marty’s Sugar Hill debut carries the hallmarks of his bluegrass pedigree, but shades of honky tonkin’ bleed through. Case in point, this selection from 1982’s Busy Bee Cafe.
2. “When The Sun Goes Down” (1989)
Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives still play the Paul Kennerly title track from 1989’s Hillbilly Rock (this commentator is patiently awaiting the delivery of his long-coveted Bear Family vinyl reissue), but for pure two-steppin’, suds-sippin’ joy, “When The Sun Goes Down” (co-written with Mark Collie) is hillbilly ideal.
3. “Red, Red Wine And Cheatin’ Songs” (1999)
If David Bowie (notoriously– but to this commentator, forgivably– anti-country music at times) had crafted a honky tonk concept album, it may have very well been in the vein of 1999’s The Pilgrim. Stuart’s tale, inspired by a true and tragic love story from his hometown, carries weight and wonder and the kind of swift heartache that makes true country music so compelling.
4. “Farmer’s Blues” (2003)
Marty co-wrote “Farmer’s Blues” with his wife, the “Queen of Broken Hearts” Connie Smith for 2003’s nail-on-the-proverbial-head Country Music but enlisted icon Merle Haggard for the duet– presumably to provoke The Hag to do his best Jimmie Rodgers yodel. Looking back, it’s a Hall of Fame hat trick and message worth revisiting. Just a beautiful lament.
5. “Whole Lotta Highway (With A Million Miles To Go)” (2017)
“When we did Way Out West, we basically parked ourselves in Southern California– spiritually, mentally, musically, all of the above– and there’s a piece of me that’s lived there perpetually since 1973,” Stuart recently told me. This 2017 psychedelic barnburner is just about as cool as it gets (I say “just about” as the upcoming Altitude is the other side of the pillow), another concept steeped in West Coast jangle and Byrd-y twang.
6. “Altitude” (2023)
I’m predicting now that Altitude (due 5/19) is going to add another GRAMMY to Stuart’s collection– I’ve heard it and it’s exceptional. Picking up the thread where Way Out West left it danglin’, Marty and Superlatives Harry Stinson, Kenny Vaughan, and Chris Scruggs fly high on their debut for Snakefarm Records. Marty has also confirmed at least two more albums are finished and waiting in the wings– an album of instrumentals and his favorite covers project Songs I Sing In The Dark.