also a member of Johnny Cash’s band.rnRespect for tradition is not synonymousrnwith stagnation, and Stuart hasrndone more than simply ape the sounds ofrnhis heroes. He has carried the influencernof Flatt and other bluegrass legends andrnJohnny Cash into his solo career. Hisrnfirst album, Busybee Cafe, has a substantialrnbluegrass and old-time country flavorrnthat is aided by the presence of EarlrnScruggs and Doc Watson and songs thatrninclude covers of tunes by Flatt andrnScruggs and Bill Monroe. Busybee Cafernalso features Johnny Cash, who performsrnhis classic trme “Hey Porter.”rnHillhilly Rock displays several of Stuarfrns distinctive sounds. Most of the songsrnon the album feature a driving beat, oftenrnset by a rhythm guitar, along with a tingernof rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly. The upbeatrntone set by the tide track—”as longrnas it’s breezy, as long as it’s fast / as long asrnit’s pumpin’ honey, it’s gonna last” —continuesrnthroughout the album, which includesrncovers of the rockabilly classicsrn”The Wild One,” originally recorded byrnJohnny Horton, and Johnny Cash’s “Cr’,rnCry, Cry.” One notable new tune, cowrittenrnby Stuart and Paul Kennerly,rncries out for the recording talents of thernKing of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Alas, “Hard tornHold” premiered some 12 years afterrnElvis Presley either died or went into hiding,rnbut Stuart does a fine job with thisrnrendition of the time-honored clichernabout a man who ain’t about to be tiedrndown to no woman: “I’ve got to get mernback to Alabam’ / there’s something babyrnyou must understand / You can’t slip arnring around a travelin’ man / Honey I’mrnhard to hold . . . “rnOn his follow-up release. Tempted,rnStuart makes clear to his listeners wherernhe is coming from. The liner notes tell ofrna conversation with a reporter who askedrnthe singer where he fit “in the scheme ofrncountry music these days.” These are linerrnnotes, mind you, not a memoir, and sornthey may have been composed by a cokesnortingrnCorporate Suit in L.A. tn,’ing tornsound like Stuart. But if they were, thernSuit did a good job; “I was raised by thernmasters that invented the music aroundrnhere, I’m one of their kids. I feel obligatedrnto carry some of the pure things thatrnthey taught me into the 21st century. Irnmean hard rockin’ hillbilly music, that’srnwhat I feel. I don’t know, maybe I’m arnbridge between the past and the future.”rnThe music on the disc backs up thernwords on the label. The newer coversrnand original tunes feature Stuart’s distinctivernbeat-oriented sound. As a bonus,rnhe includes three covers of classic tunes.rnThe album opens with “I’m Blue, I’mrnLonesome,” written by Bill Monroe andrnHank Williams, and closes with “GetrnBack to the Country,” by Neil Young.rnThe centerpiece is a haunting version ofrnJohnny Cash’s “Blue Train.”rnStuart’s best release to date is ThisrnOne’s Gonna Hurt You which came outrnin 1992. It opens with “Me & Hank &rnJumpin’ Jack Flash,” a dreamy visit tornHillbilly Heaven where Stuart meetsrnHank Williams. The legend tells him,rn”You just go on back down there. Yournmake us proud / and remember, whereverrnyou go there’s a little hillbilly in everyrncrowd.” This One’s Gonna Hurt You alsornincludes several examples of Stuart’s hillbillyrnpatriotism, evident in song titlesrnsuch as “Down Home,” “Now That’srnCountry,” and “Honky Tonk Crowd.”rnThese tunes blend Stuart’s rock-inflectedrnsound with just the right amount ofrntwang. At times, the lyrics celebrate anrnidealized country existence: “This oldrnCoupe de Ville knows where to go / just arnmile or two down that old dirt road /rnThere’s a rusty truck and a shotgunrnshack. / It ain’t much but y’all comernback!” At other times they display a cornponernphilosophy of life: “You know everyrnman and woman ought to have a place tornlay your burdens down. /Y’all can do it inrnthe city, but it ain’t the same in the bigrnold towns.” In the end, though, it allrncomes back to the music. “There was arndebutante in Dallas who nearly blew myrnmind. She was raised on caviar and realrnfine wine / She didn’t like hillbilly musicrnand that was more than I could take. Irnleft that lovely little covvgid waitin’ in thernLone Star State. / Cause I had to gornwhere the music was loud. I’m right atrnhome with a honky tonk crowd.”rnStuart’s latest release is 1999’s The Pilgrim.rnIt is, in the industry’ lingo, a “conceptrnalbum,” and the liner notes tell usrnthat it is based on a true ston,-. It may evenrnqualify as a hillbilly opera. For this ambitiousrnproject, Stuart assembled an allstarrncast that includes George Jones,rnJohnny Cash, Ralph Stanley, Emmy LournHarris, and Earl Scruggs. The storyrnevokes the folkie “saga songs” of thern1950’s and early 60’s. It’s about a misfit ofrna man married to the town beauty queenrnwho, without actually cheating, startsrnconsorting with another man —the Pilgrim.rnWhen her husband discovers this,rnhe commits suicide in their presence. Afterrnyears of suffering the disgrace of thernscandal, the woman marries the Pilgrim,rnwho has returned from his pilgrimage.rnThe stor- line is stiangely unsatisfying; itrnlacks drama. There is no adulterous act.rnThe Pilgrim remains virtuous because ofrnhis ignorance of the woman’s marriage.rnThe only action is a suicide by a seriouslyrndisturbed man who made the mistake ofrnmarrying out of his league. And then thernstory has a happy ending. Compare thisrnwith “The Long Black Veil,” a hit forrnLefty Frizzell in 1959, or “Miller’s Cave,”rnrecorded by Hank Snow in 1960. In thernformer, a man is hanged for murder becausernthe only way he can exculpate himselfrnis to reveal that he was in “the arms ofrn[his] best friend’s wife” at the time of therncrime. In the latter, a jealous man tracksrndown his no-good woman and her illicitrnlover: “caught her out one Sunday Morning,rnwith a man they called Big Dave /rnMeanest man in Waycross, Georgia, I’drnrather fight a mountain lion in Miller’srnCave . . . I said you’ll pay, both you andrnDave / 1 nuist see you in your graves /rnThey laughed at me and then I shot ’emrn/1 took their cheatin’ schemin’ bones tornMiller’s Cave / That woman made mernfeel unwanted, but I showed her I wasrnbrave / Most wanted man in the state ofrnGeorgia, but they’ll never find me ’causernI’m lost in Miller’s Cave.” These are storiesrnwith real drama, in which people payrna price for their acts, and happy endingsrnwould be out of place.rnThe Pilgrim’s weak story line, however,rnis more than compensated for by some excellentrnmandolin work by Stuart and anrnintriguing use of guest artists. Who followsrnthe “plof of a compact disc anyway?rnMarty Stuart rose to prominence withrna generation of performers who havernbeen around for too long now to be consideredrn”young” or “new,” the irritatingrnbuzzwords that accompanied their rise tornprominence in the early I990’s. Thisrncrowd has a well-deserved reputation forrnproducing schlocky, middle-of-the-roadrnmusic —more Wal-Mart than “YourrnCheatin’ Heart.” However, this shouldrnnot obscure the accomplishments of thosernperformers who have made consistentlyrngood music. Stuart is one of the few of hisrngeneration with a fair amount of mainstreamrnexposure (in radio play andrnNashville Network appearances) who isrnready to shed his statiis as junior partner tornthe legendary performers and assume hisrnplace as a star in the hillbilly cosmos.rnClark Stooksbun’ writes from Knoxville,rnTennessee.rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn