MARTY STUART (and his Fabulous Superlatives) SOULS' CHAPEL

$ 16.95

In the grand tradition of the late African-American gospel legend Roebuck “Pops” Staple — patriarch of the Staple Singers, whose influences permeates this project — “Marty Stuart: Soul’s Chapel” is a selection of classic and original spirituals that is one of his bluesiest releases to date. Stuart’s guitar carries the familiar Delta sting of his native Mississippi, as the harmony-laden choruses soar toward heaven. To be sure, this is an audacious blend of earthy grooves — what Marty calls “church-house rock and roll.” It has a rollicking and funky beat. The songs were recorded at Stuart’s house with no baffles, endless overdubs, or neurotic Pro Tools tweaking. Soaked in amp tremolo and spring reverb, the intertwining guitars of Marty and band mate Kenny Vaughn form the pillars of each song.

A revival of Staples’ “Somebody Saved Me” sets the album-opening tone, (with Marty playing “Pop’s’ guitar), while a duet with Mavis Staples on her father’s “Move Along Train” provides the climactic epiphany. The latter song — with its throbbing, palm-muted arpeggios, Memphis sliding sixths, burly low-string riffs, double-stop bends and Curtis Mayfield-inspired hammers — is a standout. Despite the album’s religious lyrics, you needn’t be a believer to grasp the 6-string magic oozing from every cut. Oddly enough, though Marty is a premier mandolin player, there’s no mando on this album.

The vocal support of bandmate Harry Stinson — a drummer known as one of Nashville’s finest high-harmony singers — and the bedrock B-3 organ of Barry Beckett contribute to the music’s saving grace.

On “Way Down,” Stuart sets an inspirational lyric to an insistent guitar progression that blues fans will recognize as “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” while “I Can’t Even Walk (Without Holding Your Hand)” sounds like a timeless country waltz. Even those who don't share the faith will find it tough to resist the power and emotional purity of this music.

With this album, Marty looks inward and delivers something delightfully unexpected without ever missing a beat. This is Marty Stuart at his best, steeped in deep-southern soul and stripped down to its spiritual essence. Driven by the heavenly guitar licks and anchored by the solid-as-a-rock rhythm section plus bassist Brian Glenn, “Soul’s Chapel” is a joyous, no-holds-barred Gospel celebration.

Seeng Marty perform in person, such as on the Grand Ole Opry, one is impressed by the feeling and the spirit he exudes from stage, which often causes the audience to rise to its feet. Standing ovations have become routine for Mr. Stuart and his group. His long hair is now greying, he usually wears a scarf and often a long coat plus cowboy boots, and smooches with Opry veteran Connie Smith, his idol-since childhood whom he grew up to marry.

Marty has a fine band of talented musicians called the Superlatives: Kenny Lovelace, Gary Carter and Robby Turner.

Marty wryly observes, “The main musical difference that I see in now and when I first came to Nashville is, back then it seemed that the most outlaw thing you could possibly do around here was to take country music and blow it up into rock and roll. Mission accomplished! Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music.”

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