Country singer Marty Stuart salutes the cosmic vibe of America’s southwest on Way Out West | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Country singer Marty Stuart salutes the cosmic vibe of America’s southwest on Way Out West

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Few active country artists possess the deep knowledge and love of the tradition’s history and lore of singer-songwriter Marty Stuart, who’s evolved into a gray eminence with a mixture of elegance and unquenchable curiosity. His latest album, Way Out West (Superlatone), draws upon this background to send a trippy love letter to the southwest, cowboy culture, and the drifter lifestyle. The record was coproduced by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell at his studio in Los Angeles. Campbell keeps the sound of Stuart’s crack backing band crisp and full, especially the delicious leads and textures of guitarist Kenny Vaughan. The album intersperses a number of evocative instrumentals; the opening mood piece, “Desert Prayer—Part 1,” collides Native American chants and spacey sitar figures in a brief, cosmic meditation, and several twang-heavy excursions flit between the influence of Link Wray, Dick Dale, Jimmy Bryant, and Italian composer Ennio Morricone (specifically his spaghetti western themes). The group also tackle the Benny Goodman classic “Air Mail Special,” made famous in the country world by Jim & Jessie, with a generous dollop of Tex-Mex guitar flourishes. Their cover of Johnny Cash’s harrowing “Lost in the Desert” is a blunt reflection of nature’s brutality, while the title track delivers a cosmic travelogue whose mile markers are the multicolored pills the singer recalls taking along the way. “Time Won’t Wait” delivers old-fashioned carpe diem pronouncements over a soaring Byrdsian attack, while the string-swaddled ballad “Please Don’t Say Goodbye” conveys the lush, sorrowful mood of Glenn Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.”   v

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