With legends like George Jones, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard all passed on, country music purists often echo the question Jones himself asked: “Who’s going to fill their shoes?” The answer, in part, is Marty Stuart.
While he’s too gracious to admit it himself, the Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and musician is living, breathing country-music history. He’s played alongside the masters, from Cash to Lester Flatt, who discovered him; been a worldwide ambassador for Nashville, Bakersfield, and points in between; and safeguarded country’s most valuable traditions and physical artifacts. Including its literal shoes: Stuart counts the brogan of Carter Family patriarch A.P. Carter and an assortment of Cash’s black boots among his vast collection of memorabilia.
But most importantly, Stuart continues to record and release keenly relevant music, records that honor country’s rich legacy while advancing it into the future. Way Out West, his 18th studio album, hits both of those marks. Produced by Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), the album is a cinematic tour-de-force, an exhilarating musical journey through the California desert that solidifies Stuart as a truly visionary artist.
Opening with a Native American prayer, a nod to Stuart’s affinity for the indigenous people, particularly the Lakota, Way Out West transports the listener to the lonely but magical American West. It is, in its own way, musical peyote.
“If you go and sit by yourself in the middle of the Mojave Desert at sundown and you’re still the same person the next morning when the sun comes up, I’d be greatly surprised,” says Stuart. “It is that spirit world of the West that enchants me.”
Specifically the promised land of California. Growing up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Stuart was taken by the mystique of the Golden State: the culture, the movies, and especially the music. “Everything that came out of California captivated my kid mind in Mississippi,” he says. “It seemed like a fantasy land. Way Out West is a love letter to that.”