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Multi-talented Marty Stuart has paid his dues many times over, because the now Nashville icon after starting out as a teenager playing mandolin in Lester Flatt’s bluegrass band in the early 1970s then became a member of Johnny Cash’s band in the 1980s, before gaining his wings as a solo act. Way Out West is his 18th album, and with its cinematic feel you have an album high in artistic value.
That’s not to mention his work as an international ambassador of country music in Nashville and recipient from the Americana Music Association of the Lifetime Achievement Award. What with his collection of Nudie suits, general country music memorabilia (guitars included) plus work with the Grand Ole Opry Stuart would be hard pressed to have done anything more in keeping traditional country music alive. Making a concept album isn’t anything new to Stuart, Way Out West follows in the steps of his other albums Pilgrim, Badlands and such projects as Tear The Woodpile Down.
Marty Stuart is a larger than life performer, and though in recording a concept album would be outside most people’s vocabulary I isn’t something new to him. He’s been down this road before. He may have picked up the art from his old boss, Johnny Cash, that of making album where a theme runs through the songs from start to finish. Whatever the answer Stuart has Way Out West that retraces time spent crossing the burning Arizona desert en route to California. “Lost On The Desert” (Buddy R. Mize – Dallas Frazier) sounds Marty Robbins like such the drama in his telling as the songs speaks of being left in the desert to die. Once recorded by Cash I can imagine h would have been proud of his former employee's version.
Full of incredible playing there is even a little of the 1970s spaghetti western hue thrown in as he tackles the harshness of the desert. On a “Whole Lotta Highway (With A Million Miles To Go)” Stuart sees the highway through the eyes of a truck driver. He speaks of the Mexican Border on gently opened ode, “Old Mexico” as he captures a little daring and folk lore. While on pressing on through the night under a big bright moon “Time Don’t Wait” shares the philosophy of don’t wait till tomorrow what you want to do today, because time doesn’t wait on anyone. No matter who you are, wealthy or not.
Guitar (acoustic, electric) playing vocalist Stuart is joined by His Fabulous Superlatives (Kenny Vaughan, acoustic, electric, 12-string guitar, Omni chord; Harry Stinson, drums, percussion, vocals; Chris Scruggs, bass, Arco, upright bass, steel guitar, sitar) plus producer, Mike Campbell on piano, guitar and B3-organ and Paul Martin (electric bass on “Quicksand”), Mick Conley, electric guitar (“Time Don’t Wait”) and Gary Carter on steel guitar (“Whole Lotta Highway”) who figure on selected tracks, plus on two tracks Stuart brings in a string ensemble; “Please Don’t Say Goodbye” and the reprise version of “Way Out West”.
Among his own songs he also finds space for “Airmail Special” (Charles Christian - Benny Goodman) and it must not be overlooked that instrumentals “Torpedo” and “El Fantasma Del Toro” are the work of band members Vaughan and Stinson respectively.
Make no mistake this project was a big undertaking. It took a great deal of thought, and experimentation before all the ‘t’s were crossed, and ‘i’s dotted.
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