Stuart shares ‘Songs I Sing in the Dark’
Marty Stuart has three albums of material ready for release.
Figuring out when and how to release them during a lingering pandemic is difficult to predict, but it’s not slowing down his creativity.
“I can’t let it rule my creative life,” he said during a telephone interview. “I think what I have to do is keep making music that speaks to my heart, that has a timeless ring to it, that is beyond trends, that is beyond what is just a fad.”
Two of those records he did with the Fabulous Superlatives — Kenny Vaughan, guitar; Harry Stinson, drums; and Chris Scruggs, bass and steel guitar — the band that’s been backing him for nearly 20 years and will be with him on Friday when he plays the Robins Theatre.
Stuart, 63, has been touring since he was 12 years old, and his career spans country, bluegrass, rockabilly and other genres, so it’s no surprise the new music continues to blur boundaries. He described the upcoming album “Altitude” as “a deeper trip into cosmic cowboy land,” and there’s also a collection of original, surf-rock style instrumentals that is “mixed, mastered and ready to go.”
The third project Stuart has been sharing with fans through monthly releases since last March. “Songs I Sing in the Dark” features Stuart performing stripped down covers of some of his favorites songs. “Old favorites from various music worlds that I often sing to myself when I’m alone” is how he describes it in the essay that accompanied the first song, “Ready for Times to Get Better,” which was written by Allen Reynolds and was a hit for Crystal Gayle in 1978.
The latest is a haunting version of “Six White Horses,” a song about the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John and Robert Kennedy. It was a country hit for Tommy Cash (Johnny’s older brother) in 1969 (check out Stuart’s version, and the rest of the song on Stuart’s YouTube page).
“First time I heard it was in 1969, Tommy Cash sung it live on the Johnny Cash show when I saw them live in Jackson, Miss.,” Stuart said. “And it got real quiet in that audience because it probably wasn’t what the audience was expecting or necessarily wanted to hear at the time because the South had been through so much, but, boy, that went straight into my heart that night. Such a great piece.”
The project was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, something he could do while he wasn’t able to tour, but it provided some unexpected comfort to the singer
Both Stuart and his wife, country singer Connie Smith, contracted COVID-19 almost a year ago. Stuart said he had a mild case, but Smith ended up in the hospital.
“Connie’s became pretty profound,” he said. “At one point I was about to lose my girl, but she rallied and for that I am grateful. One of the songs I sing, (Tammy Wynette’s ‘Till I Get It Right,’ I was scheduled to record, and this is when Connie was in the hospital. We were snowed in Nashville, you could barely get around, and I couldn’t go to the hospital anyway because they weren’t allowed any visitors. And this had been going on for 10 days at this time, and she wasn’t any better. I could sit at this house and go crazy, or I could get my (rear) up off the couch and be with people who make music and just sing through my pain, my hurt and my lonesome part and hopefully send all that love toward her.
“That particular song, if nobody cared, if nobody ever heard or listened to that song, it really did the job for me. It was the only song I could think of that was as sad as I was. I needed somewhere to rebel, somewhere to raise hell, and I thought, at that point, the most rebellious thing I could do without going to jail was sing a Tammy Wynette song.”
Smith not only recovered, she was able to induct her husband into the Country Music Hall of Fame in November. He called the experience mind blowing.
“In my case, it’s an honor, a badge of honor, but it’s also one of those things, it’s like being made a chief in a Native American setting. You have to keep earning that place, I think. It’s a responsibility and an honor all rolled into one.”
In his induction speech, Stuart said he would like to see country music receive as much respect as dance, classical music and other art forms. During the interview, he said he’s not sure why it doesn’t get that recognition, but he believes it’s slowly improving
“I think there’s just an old stereotypical kind of connotation that goes with the culture of country music. Somewhere along the way, our credibility and integrity and dignity kicked in, and I think that’s what we as the Superlatives have worked toward for almost the last 20 years, making sure that we got country music parked alongside those other genres. We’ve played Jazz at Lincoln Center. We’ve played the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center itself.
“And when Ken Burns came across the hill with that series he did (“Country Music” on PBS), it was like having the cowboy come across the hill to assist. I think we’ve made a case for country music in the pantheon of the arts.”
If you go …
WHO: Marty Stuart & the Fabulous Superlatives and The Shootouts
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Robins Theatre, 160 E. Market St., Warren
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $25 to $49 and are available at the Robins box office and robinstheatre.com.