The honky tonk gods of Nashville’s famed Lower Broadway have long guided Marty Stuart’s way. Throughout his career, which in 2012 finds the singer/songwriter celebrating 40 years in Nashville, Marty has stood firm with a blend of traditional country and rockabilly that echoes the heartache pouring out of Music City’s world famous strip. On Marty’s new record, Nashville Vol. 1: Tear The Woodpile Down due in stores April 24, the 53-year-old Grand Ole Opry member shuns modern trends for a soul-bearing collection that is as true and honest as the lonesome realities faced by Lower Broad’s hillbilly forefathers.
The overall sound of Nashville Vol. 1 can be described as retro in that twang-heavy guitars, gunfire percussion and thumping bass unapologetically chug along while a steel guitar cries out. Marty’s longtime touring band, The Fabulous Superlatives, back up the singer here with an energy and familiarity that only a seasoned group of players can provide. While the scorched fretboards of the instrumental jam “Hollywood Boogie” show off Marty & Co.’s musical prowess, it’s the album’s powerful and vivid lyrical imagery that remains long after the songs end.
On the stomping ¾ time “Sundown In Nashville,” music and voice are locked together as Marty addresses the ‘dark side of fame.’ Pulling no punches, he sings, Each evening at sundown in Nashville, they sweep broken dreams off the street, when discussing the good with the bad of going for broke. On the steady “Going, Going, Gone,” a chorus of layered harmonies opens the track before a slight tempo shift cues Marty’s deeply personal voice admitting discontent directly related to his own choices. There’s just one thing that I know about tomorrow, Marty sings through the chorus, When it’s all said and done I’ll be alone. There’s no sugarcoating here. It’s classic country filled with brutal realism.
Throughout the record, guests such as Nashville musicians Buck Trent, Kenny Lovelace and Robbie Turner join Marty to add their talents. The project closes with a pair of songs featuring the bloodline of country music royalty. Lorrie Carter Bennett of The Carter Family adds bittersweet harmonies on the tender “A Song of Sadness” while Hank Williams III duets on “Picture from Life’s Other Side.” The latter is a country classic originally written and recorded by the late Hank Sr. that Marty and Hank III have performed live together previously. In ways a tribute to Hank Sr., the gritty acoustic song is an impressive reminder of the power of words through its unflinching everyday truths.
Marty wrote the majority of material himself and also serves as the project’s producer. This level of control, along with the support of an indie label, allows for freedom in regards to such decisions as opening the record with, and titling it after, a song with political undertones. On “Tear The Woodpile Down,” Marty sings aggressively, Taxpayer dollar ain’t worth a dime / Government’s got us in a bind/ Think I’ll run for President / And I won’t have to pay no rent. Though this is the only time Marty gets political, and even here it’s subtle in relation to the entire song, it’s yet another example of Marty’s unwavering approach to his art. Nashville Vol. 1 is a strong and authentic collection of country music dealing directly with blue collar values and leaves only one question after it’s done – when do we get to hear ‘Volume 2’?
Key tracks – “Sundown In Nashville.” “Picture from Life’s Other Side,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “The Lonely Kind”