20 years ago this month, Marty Stuart released his conceptualized 20-song magnum opus The Pilgrim as his final album on a contract with MCA Nashville. A commercial flop that rendered no radio singles, it nonetheless went onto become one of the most revered releases in the Marty Stuart collection, and for some fans, one of the most cherished albums in all of country music. It joined the canon of country music’s conceptualized works such as Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken, and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.
Now Marty Stuart is planning to reissue an expanded version of the album later this year, likely in September. Stuart has been mentioning the reissue to audiences when performing live recently, promising it will include bonus tracks and perhaps unreleased songs. On September 11th, 18th, and 25th, Marty Stuart will be performing three exclusive shows as part of his 2019 Artist-In-Residence duties at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The September 11th show is called “The Pilgrim” and is being touted as a re-release show of the landmark album, with Chris and Morgane Stapleton, Connie Smith, Gary Carter, Kristin Wilkinson with her Superlative Strings, and Emmylou Harris all joining Marty Stuart on stage for the occasion.
Emmylou Harris appeared originally on The Pilgrim, as did other notable performers such as Pam Tillis, George Jones, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, and Marty’s former boss, Johnny Cash, who helps conclude the album with a haunting performance. Consisting of instrumental interludes and recurring “acts” that lend corresponding sonic shades to compliment the arc of the story, the linear narrative of the album is based on a true story from Marty Stuart’s hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was the last album he recorded while working with his backing band The Rock & Roll Cowboys. Afterwards Stuart would form his current band, The Fabulous Superlatives.
The Pilgrim was sort of lost in time, but the quality of the work has made it into a cult favorite and a reissue could put renewed attention behind the album. Though no details have been made official about the reissue as of yet, the song “Even Trains Have To Cry” is expected to be included. Saving Country Music posted a vintage album review for the record on its 15th Anniversary.
Marty Stuart’s second Artist-In-Residence show September 18th at the Hall of Fame will be called the “Psychedelic Jam-Bo-Ree” and feature Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of The Byrds, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jim Lauderdale, and others. The September 25th show is called “Songs That Tell a Story,” and John Prine, Doug Kershaw, Dallas Frazier, and Brandy Clark will all join Marty on stage.
More information on The Pilgrim reissue when it becomes available.