Most people who read my reviews know that I use a 3 play system before I look at other reviews (if there are any) to see if I am on target. I discovered a site that is called “Saving Country Music.com” and read a review of this album….and I thought, there is probably no point writing a review, I am never going to write one as good as this one. The reviewer wrote everything that I had in my head and heart and wrote it better than I ever could. Check it out if you get the chance, it describes Marty to a t. It is quite possibly the best review that I have ever read.
I looked at several other reviews and they are almost as good as the above one, saying things that I was thinking, so at least I knew that I was on the right track. Maybe the reviews are so good this time around because the quality of this album is well…..beyond superlatives.
Having said that, let me say this…..
Marty takes us on a journey through deserts, canyons, the Baja coast and if you could put a horse on a surfboard, then that would be there too. Named after Marty Robbins, the well loved country music legend puts us in a spaghetti western and through a tube in a 60’s surfing movie. Robbins could have been riding shotguitar with him on this one, along with the other country music ghost, Johnny Cash. The California sound mixes with a one horse town with tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street.
Marty Stuart, as other reviewers have pointed out, has enjoyed longevity by going against the grain of trends and turns in country music. He has stuck to what he loves and what he knows but at the same time, he has made the old seem new and he has gained a younger audience by that very rebellious streak that kids lap up. He has maintained a cult following and the respect of his older fans and critics by remaining true to traditions, albeit disguised and tinged with a handful of new flights of fancy.
Like all great artists, he is chiefly a storyteller. This Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) produced effort, is like a Western Movie, with every Marty Stuart move that you would expect and a few that you may not.
There are a few instrumentals on this album, and even the songs with vocals are dominated by guitar driven periods and often that 60’s drum beat. Marty points out in one review that country instrumentals (old style) and 60’s surfing tunes are not that much different in style.
In one song, Air Mail Special, the intro guitar licks are similar to an Elvis song or two of the 60’s, then it turns into more of a rockabilly style. Marty is not afraid to mix it up.
Torpedo is very reminiscent of that 60’s surfer style. I can see the girls and guys on the California beaches slicing sand and the bleach blondes hangin’ 10 to this tune and others like it on the album.
This album is very clever. It will be able to appeal to a wide audience for many different reasons. Marty has managed to combine the traditional country music styles with other elements of music. With the exception of the title track, the songs are short and in keeping with the 60’s/trad. Country songs timing. This album goes by very quickly but it takes you to many places.
Guitar nuts will have a field day with this one. Keep your air guitar handy.
Desert Prayer, pt. 1: A short chant like intro to the album to get us started on the journey.
Mojave: Definitely a track like Marty was talking about, combining that 60’s surfing riff with a western movie soundtrack. A guitar feast.
Lost on the Desert: Previously recorded by Johnny Cash, this song is perfect for this album. It has that Marty Robbins/Roger Miller feel. If you follow a map you can go to all of these places in a row.
Way out West: The title track and the longest track by a country mile on the album, which seems fitting. Going from Arizona to California now. A storytelling at its finest. A different kind of “trip”.
El Fantasma del Toro: This loosely translates to The Ghost Bull, according to Google! Unmistakably Mexican, with Spanish Guitar and with some 60’s twang.
Old Mexico: As the title suggests, it has that Mexican feel, and very Marty Robbins like.
Time Don’t Wait: Has a Travelling Wilburys feel. Great beat. One of my favourites on the album.
Quicksand: Sounds like a shootout at 12 paces. Again with the 60’s guitar twang. Watch the guy up on the balcony and the terrain in front of you.
Air Mail Special: As mentioned earlier, this sounds like Elvis crossed with Rockabilly and it gives you a geography lesson at the same time. I think that you travel just about every mode of transport on this album.
Torpedo: This has been a highly promoted song and with good reason. It definitely takes us to the coast and to the 60’s. Guitars and drums on this are perfection.
Please Don’t Say Goodbye: You have to have a leaving song on a country album or it isn’t a country album. More Gerry and the Pacemakers feel to this one than 60’s surf music.
Whole Lotta Highway (with a million miles to go): One of my favourites, we’re in a truck now! This one will be a crowd favourite. Has a bit of The Byrds sound to it.
Desert Prayer, pt II – The first part was more an ode to the native Americans, this one is more of a cowboy ode.
Wait for the morning: A sombre, easy listening track which definitely has the feel of heading towards sunrise. You can feel the album winding down.
Way Out West (Reprise): End of the Western and the Cowboys disappear into the hills and plains.
The word these days is fusion. There is definitely a fusion of styles here and there are some interesting experiments. Marty has often been on middle ground. He is seldom put up with Cash, Nelson, Kristofferson, Jones, Haggard and co, but he is way above the young pack of country musos. He is held in high regard but he is in a position to do what he wants to do without being judged too harshly. He is constant and unwavering.
This is a treasure for not just country music fans but for all fans of great music. The fact that 60’s music and country music are my two favourite styles makes this fan a very happy camper. This is a rippa.
Produced by Mike Campbell
Marty Stuart: Guitars, vocals
Kenny Vaughan: Guitars, Omnichord, Harmonies
Mike Campbell, Guitars, Hammond B3, Piano, Pump Organ, Vibraphone
Chris Scruggs: All kinds of Bass, Steel Guitar, Sitar, Vocal Harmonies
Harry Stinson: Bass, Drums, Spanish Guitar, Percussion, Vocal harmonies
Gary Carter: Steel Guitar
Kristin Wilkinson: Viola
Mick Conley: Bass, Guitar, Synthesizer
David Davidson: Violin
Everette Helper: Chant, Drums
Paul Martin: Bass (electric) harmonies
Sari Reist: Cello