There is a great injustice going on in country music right now, and I am mad as hell about it.
I’m not talking about the gross objectification of women in today’s country songs and the systemic exclusion of female artists from radio. I’m not talking about the continued undeserving of traditional country music through the mainstream industry or the under-appreciation of quality songwriting. Though all these issues and many more chap me like you won’t believe and have been pontificated upon at length for years, this is an issue that is way more specific.
We love to speak long and loudly about the virtues of younger, upsurging artists such as Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Cody Jinks, Margo Price, and others, and how they’re turning the country industry upside down with their successes. Saving Country Music does this more than anybody. But what does Marty Stuart have to do to get some of the incredibly deserved attention that his new album, and frankly, his last seven or eight years of stellar output deserve?
Why is Marty Stuart’s efforts going systematically overlooked? Is it just because he’s an artist in his late 50’s, so folks think he must not have much left in the tank? Is it because everybody thinks he’s a known quantity, and is incapable of setting the creative pace in country? Whatever it is, it’s wrong-minded and a travesty, and bordering on an embarrassment at the lack of attention he is receiving by everyone involved.
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives latest record Way Out West is nothing short of astounding in the way it re-imagines the Bakersfield Sound and the country rock insurgence of the 60’s. Now I know that’s an opinion, but if Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell had released this record, we’d all be falling all over ourselves right now. Granted, that’s exactly what Marty Stuart’s hardcore fans are doing at the moment, with Way Out West on the tip of their tongues for being in contention for one of the greatest albums in a good while. How is it resonating beyond Stuart’s rabid fan base though? Way Out West came in at #44 in the Billboard Country Albums charts in its debut week. Sales for this thing are deplorable. And this is in the era when independent and traditional country artists young and old are regularly weaseling their way into the Top 10, or even into #1 slot on at albums chart.
This really is a travesty. This isn’t about showing respect to a country music legend, though Stuart definitely deserves that distinction. This is about recognizing the efforts of one of the most creatively dynamic and forward-thinking country music artists of our time, right here, right now, who also happens to be a country legend, who played with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and is at the forefront of preserving country’s history.
I’m not asking you to support this guy out of guilt. If you’re not exposing yourself to Marty Stuart’s creative output at the moment, you’re flat missing out on some of the best musical enjoyment the greater country music realm has to offer. And I don’t care if you’re a traditional country fan, and Americana alumnus, a classic rock guy or gal, Way Out West has something for everyone. I already reviewed the damn thing and said about all I could about it. But apparently the country music public needs the hard sell. And meanwhile it’s not just the mainstream that needs to look long in the mirror and confront its ageism. So do a lot of these independent fans.
I’ll get off my high horse now, but do yourself a favor and find a copy of Way Out West or pull it up on Spotify, and find out what you’re missing. Go back and listen to some of his more recent albums like Ghost Train: The Studio ‘B’ Sessions or Tear The Woodpile Down. Then tell a friend. This is not fuddy duddy country music, this is guitar-driven, creatively-dynamic, forward-thinking country music that can bridge generational gaps and have a lasting effect on the human spirit.
Seriously folks, don’t screw this up.