Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives – Altitude
Marty Stuart’s been so busy lately, it might seem like he left making music behind! Between re-opening the Ellis Theater in his hometown (Philadelphia, Mississippi), collecting pieces of country music history and raising funds for a museum to house them (the Congress of Country Music), and being inducted into seemingly every music hall of fame that exists, it’s been over six years since Stuart released a new record. Truth is, he’d also found time to write songs along the way, and made space (six feet, to be exact) to record the new tracks with his fantastically monikered Fabulous Superlatives during the pandemic. After that long wait, Altitude is here, and it continues Stuart’s classics-based take on country music.
The songs on Altitude were inspired by (and often written during) Stuart’s 2018 tour in support Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of Byrds fame, and the short cosmic jams that bookend the record, as well as one sandwiched in the middle, pay homage to the Sweetheart of the Rodeo legends in both name and feel. “Lost Byrd Space Train (Scene 1)” features Stuart playing late Byrd Clarence White’s B-Bender Telecaster, which produces a pedal steel sound while also setting up a landscape for the album as a whole. The first full song on the record also nods to the Byrds – “Country Star,” much like 1967’s “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” includes a quick blueprint for musical fame and fortune – “All I need is a motor in my car, crank it up, hit the road, be a country star” – while also referencing his first boss (Lester Flatt) and a possibly purloined diamond that…might? have ended up on the hand of his eventual (and still) wife Connie Smith.
Byrds influences are all over Altitude. “Sitting Alone” is full of jangle and pretty harmonies, and “The Sun Is Quietly Sleeping” has a dreamy classic rock feel. But the man that Ken Burns once called the “president” of country music has soaked up a half-century of the stuff, working alongside the best and making him almost as much of a historian as a musician (and he’s a damn good musician). The man played with Cash, and “Tomahawk” has a Tennessee Two chug to it. “A Friend of Mine” approaches rockabilly as it finds commonality in the toughest of spots – “Sometimes you get to plant the grapes, but you never get to taste the wine.” And the title track is the type of traditional country, with steel guitar and twin fiddles, that you know you’ll hear at a place like Robert’s Western World in Nashville. This is what Stuart, who includes one of the last performances of late piano player Hargus “Pig” Robbins on the track, is always chasing – the authenticity found in old-school country music. He just happens to find it more often than just about anyone else.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Space” – the song that answers the question, “Can Marty Stuart play sitar?” This mysterious, new-agey track about trying to carve out a bit of peace and quiet in a mad, mad world answers that query in the most-definite affirmative.
Altitude was produced by Marty Stuart, Mickey Conley, Harry Stinson, Kenny Vaughan and Chris Scruggs, recorded by Nick Gibbens, mixed by Nick Gibbens and Conley and mastered by Conley. All songs written by Stuart. The Fabulous Superlatives are Kenny Vaughan (guitars), Harry Stinson (drums, percussion, vocals), and Chris Scruggs (bass, steel guitar, vocals). Additional musicians on the album include Roman Seyfried (scream), Jim “Moose” Brown (B3, piano), Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano), Gary Carter (steel guitar), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Billy Contreras (fiddle), Sam Bacco (vibes), Kris Wilkinson (viola), Sari Reist (cello), David Angell (violin), David Davidson (violin) and Nick Gibbens (percussion).
Go here to order Altitude (out May 19): https://spinefarm.merchnow.com/collections/marty-stuart-his-fabulous-superlativesuk&utm_country=GB&utm_linkurl=MartyStuart.lnk.to%2FAltitude
Check out tour dates here: https://martystuart.net/pages/tour
Learn more about Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music here: https://www.congressofcountrymusic.org/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Show Review: Chris Stapleton with Marty Stuart and Brent Cobb Put Music First in Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena