Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives – Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down

January 01, 1970

(Sugar Hill)


“Thank God for Marty Stuart.” That’s what Merle Haggard
sings in his song “Too Much Boogie Woogie,” a lament for the ways country music
has gone wrong since the days when Haggard himself ruled the genre’s airwaves.
Marty Stuart, then, is one of the few good ones in Haggard’s mind; he’s
carrying on the traditions that made country music such an important repository
for emotional truths back in the day.


Stuart himself writes a biography/manifesto in the liner
notes for this brand new album in which he says: “The main musical difference
that I see now and when I first came to Nashville is, back then it seemed that
the most outlaw thing you could possibly do around here was to take country
music and blow it up into rock & roll. Mission accomplished! Today the most outlaw
thing you can possibly do in Nashville,
Tennessee is play country music.”


Of course, country music, riddled as it has been with conservative
impulses and a distrust of change, has always had its share of performers and
fans deriding the current trends in favor of the way things used to be. As
such, the definition of what is country is and has been a fluid question ever
since the first performers at the Grand Ole Opry started dressing down back in
the 1920s and 30s to play a role of ultra-rural life that even then wasn’t
entirely true to their own experience. The best country music, from the Carter
Family and Jimmie Rogers on up to the Band Perry and Little Big Town has always
kept one foot in tradition and one
foot in modernity. As such, it doesn’t make sense to fight the changes that
come as time goes on, so much as to look for the connections to real life which
inevitably get dropped into every style of country music somewhere along the


All of which is a long-winded way of proving background to
an appreciation of Stuart’s terrific new record, which contains not a single
nod to any musical trends after 1975. While he is true to the old ways of
country music, his spirit is in the present, and the songs he writes and sings
sound lived in and loved. This album delves into all the old tropes – the
fiery, electric Saturday night party anthem (“Tear the Woodpile Down”), the difficulty
of breaking into the country business lament for broken dreams (“Sundown in
Nashville”), the trading of hot guitar and steel guitar licks on a
furiously-paced instrumental (“Hollywood Boogie”), the truck driver looking
forward to sex at home (“Truck Driver’s Blues”), the mournful yet dignified
regrets for a failed relationship  (“The
Lonely Kind”), and even a Hank Williams cover (“Picture From Life’s Other
Side,” here performed with none other than Hank III). But Stuart’s enthusiasm
and love for each relic from country music’s past is twined with a deep need to
communicate exactly what needs to be said about each of these concepts today. The first thing you notice is not that
this album is retro; it’s that these songs and performances are thrilling.


It does not hurt one bit that Stuart’s band, the Fabulous
Superlatives, has one of the most accurate names in the world. Stuart has
always been a hot-shot guitarist; now he has Kenny Vaughan as a foil.
Meanwhile, bassist Paul Martin also contributes piano and organ, and drummer
Harry Stinson is one of the best backing vocalists in the game. This is the
third album Stuart has done with this band, and they continue to find
surprising and delightful ways to rev up Stuart’s performances.


There’s no need to share Haggard’s disdain for all modern
country performers just to celebrate the music of Marty Stuart. This
tantalizing title, Nashville, Volume 1, means that we’re going to
have more reasons to be excited about him in the future.


the Woodpile Down,” “Hillbilly Boogie,” “Truck Driver’s Blues” STEVE PICK


Leave a Reply