|All Music Guide||Country Song Roundup|
|Country America||My Kind Of Country|
|Country Music||New Country|
|Country Music USA|
No song here is less than memorable, and the best are better than that. If Tempted rates any gripes, it's that the disc doesn't go on long enough. Nonetheless, in just over half an hour, Stuart has managed a more complete statement than anything else likely to come out of Nashville -- or most other places, for that matter -- in 1991. Perfect songs, impeccable backing, and the most confident vocals you've ever heard. Shoulda made him a superstar.
by Eddie Huffman
Hot on the heels of the super successful Hillbilly Rock, Marty Stuart serves up Tempted, a hot set of rockin' country tunes sprinkled with a couple of ballads that are heartfelt yet not wimpy. Stuart is part of the group of artists that are updating the traditional sounds of country, keeping hillbilly alive and evolving, yet remaining true to the spirit of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. Listening to Tempted, one is reminded of the first records made by Steve Earle-there's lot's of ringing guitars, some exquisite pedal steel and fiddle work and a walloping back beat. When you check the credits to see the supporting all-star cast that includes John Jarvis, Harry Stinson and Mark O'Connor and with the fine production touches of Richard Bennett and Tony Brown, you realize why. This is basically the same group that worked with Earle on his records, and they sure know how to make smart country records with a solid helping of rock `n roll thrown in. The songwriters represented on Tempted are an amazingly diverse bunch; Stuart wrote with same of today's finest, and yesterday's best are represented as well. The stand-out tracks include "Little Things," co-written by Paul Kennerley and Stuart, the Bill Monroe/Hank Williams-penned "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," Neil Young's "Get Back To The Country" and a wonderful old Eddie Miller song, "Burn Me Down."
As one of Nashville's most charismatic country rockers, Marty Stuart maintains a rip-roaring balance between country's old school and its new wave, the historic and the hip. Tempted focuses even tighter on the roots, rhythm and themes that helped make last year's jaunty Hillbilly Rock such a toe-tapping pleasure.
"I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," which opens the album, is an obscure Bill Monroe/Hank Williams tune, and Stuart churns through its chunka-chunka guitar melody with glee, even throwing in an unexpected yodel at one point. In "Blue Train," remake of a 1956 Johnny Cash rockabilly hit, he sounds like he's thrilled to be riding the same musical rails as the Man in Black.
Richard Bennett and Tony Brown's production crackles with excitement, especially for the three songs on which Stuart is joined by his road band. There are even a few fine-tuned surprises, such as the time-signature switch in "Little Things," which gives the song a subtle jolt of momentum by omitting two beats as it exits each chorus. Even during its tender, more settled moments--"Till I Found You" and the title track--the energy level on Tempted never sags. It's a treat from the first song to the last.By Neil Pond
It's still a mystery to me why Hillbilly Rock, Marty Stuart's first album for MCA, released in 1989, didn't make more waves. I, for one, touted it loudly in these pages. I believed--and still believe--that it was one of the best releases of the year. I can only theorize that Stuart's sincere and smoldering tribute to 1950's raunch and rockabilly was a bit too strident and visceral for country radio programmers. (These folks have a system of their own for deciding what to play and what not to play on the airwaves; it is apparently so complex and arcane that they don't even understand it themselves most of the time. However, for whatever it's worth, George Bush requested a copy of Hillbilly Rock to play on Air Force One. At least somebody besides me thought it was worth a spin.)
With Tempted, his latest, Stuart has done something I wasn't sure he was capable of doing--made an even stronger album than Hillbilly Rock. This one, I predict, will prove more palatable to country radio--which is, after all, a country artist's ultimate grinding wheel of success or failure. Stuart hasn't changed direction this time around; he's merely shifted gears a little and eased into a more comfortable and solid groove--one that perhaps doesn't strut and swarm over you and get in your face quite as aggressively as some of the cuts on Hillbilly Rock did.
Instead, Tempted, in an effortless and unselfconscious way, reaffirms Stuart's rootsy fondness for 50's and 60's country. There's hardly a song on here that wouldn't be right at home on a Johnny Cash, Carl Smith or Johnny Horton album from 30 or 35 years ago. Stuart's own composition, "Paint The Town," sounds as if it emerged full-blown from the 50's. So do the handful of other songs he has co-written with superstar songwriters like Paul Kennerley and Kostas and his coolly nonchalant but sensual version of Eddie Miller's "Burn Me Down."
The Johnny Cash influence is in evidence everywhere on Tempted, as it almost always is in Stuart's music. Stuart is, after all, a former Cash protege, sideman, and in-law, as well as a lifelong friend. "Blue Train," for example, is an old Cash number that Stuart has updated with a faithfully growling vocal, some futuristic-sounding keyboard fills and some supersonic electric guitar variations on the old trademark Cash boom-chick-a-boom. "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome" is another restless, footloose train song of sorts in which Stuart invokes the ghost of Hank Williams and the spirit of Bill Monroe and manages to do them both justice.
From a guitar aficionado's point of view, this is the best and boldest guitar-framed album I've heard since Guitar Town, Steve Earle's debut of five or six years ago. That's no coincidence, since Tony Brown and Richard Bennett, who co-produced Guitar Town, are at the production helm here. Tempted--to Brown's and Bennett's considerable credit--possesses the same arresting rawness, cockiness and vitality that made the Earle debut album so refreshing.
Richard Bennett's bold signature lead electric guitar work can also be hard throughout the tracks on Tempted, as it was on Guitar Town. In fact, with session ace Ray Flacke playing on some cuts and Stuart, who's a former newgrass super picker himself, playing red-hot guitar and mandolin licks on others, there are no fewer than three guitar stars at work here.
Mind you, not every cut here in a ringer; there are one or two near-misses. All the rousing guitar licks and spirited vocals in the world don't make Neil Young's "Back to the Country" anything more than the semi-lame song it's always been. But Stuart uses the song to make a broader point about his music and his life. And considering the fate of his previous album, it's a point both timely and well taken.
The year is early yet, but I'm tempted to say that Tempted is just about the best thing I've heard since 1991 rolled over on the odometer. I'll even put my money where my mouth is--perhaps sagely, perhaps foolishly--and predict that '91 will be "The Year of Marty Stuart." With Tempted, he sounds like he's arrived at last.
By Bob Allen
|Marty Stuart is a man on a mission. "What I have a passion to do," he explains, "is to take what I've learned and been a part of in the past with all the masters and then bridge it into the future. I'm crusading for hillbilly music."
Stuart's crusade began with his debut MCA album Hillbilly Rock, which yielded three hit singles, and continues on his new MCA album Tempted. He opens the album with a spirited performance of "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," a song written by two of the most influential figures in the history of hillbilly music, bluegrass patriarch Bill Monroe and honky tonk king Hank Williams. The infectious rhythms of the Memphis/Sun Records artist is set forth on Johnny Cash's song "Blue Train." The bridge from the past to the future is nowhere more apparent than on "Burn Me Down," a song written in 1965 by Eddie Miller (writer of "Release Me"), enhanced by some new lyrics and music by Marty Stuart.
Stuart's compositions carry forward the standards set by the masters. His "Paint The Town Tonight" captures the hillbilly heartbreak of an old Buck Owens record. He teamed up with Paul Kennerley, writer of "Hillbilly Rock" and a connoisseur of classic rock and country music, to write the driving rhythmic numbers "Tempted" and "Little Things." Kennerley and Hank DeVito ("Queen of Hearts") contributed "Till I Found You," with its twangy lead guitar part. Stuart and Kostas ("Timber, I'm Falling In Love") captured the heart and soul of honky tonk music in the walking bass feel of "Half A Heart" and the emotional drama of "I Want A Woman." With Neil Young's "Back To the Country," Stuart glances back to his own past as a studio musician, having played on Young's original version of the song.
The masters of hillbilly music are more than an element in Stuart's music. They are a part of his life. Onstage, he plays country-rock pioneer Clarence White's 1954 Telecaster with a steel guitar-like string bender on the B-string. He also plays a Martin D-45 formerly owned by Hank Williams, Sr. and a D-28 that was Lester Flatt's. His bus is Ernest Tubb's old bus, where Stuart spent many a youthful hour learning how to play poker from the masters. He wears flashy rhinestone and Western suits made by Nudie and Manuel.
Stuart followed another hillbilly masters' tradition by using his live band on many of the cuts on Tempted. The band not only gives the music that extra degree of live energy, it is an integral part of Stuart's music. "When I put the band together, I started writing songs to fit the band," he explains. "I had just seen a Bob Dylan concert. It was him, G. E. Smith (the guitarist from "Saturday Night Live"), and two other guys. I thought, musically that's smart; economically that's smart. I came to see Bob Dylan, not a whole entourage."
"Then I got to thinking, my favorite bands were Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Merle Haggard and the Strangers, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three. I started writing songs like 'Paint The Town,' 'Half A Heart,' that me and the band could do. That's basically what's behind this album....simplicity. When I was a kid, Johnny Cash was my hero, but his guitar player Luther Perkins was too. I thought Luther was half of Johnny's records. With Buck Owens, you had Don Rich on guitar. Everbody in the band was a star. That's the kind of band I've put together with Rockin' Ray Flacke on guitar, Dangerous Dave Durocher on drums and the kind of the hillbilly bass, Larry Marrs. They're all stars in their own right."
Stuart feels that the musical vision that began with Hillbilly Rock is being fullfilled with Tempted. Again co-produced by Tony Brown and Richard Bennett, Tempted incorporates Stuart's experiences and his goals, elements of country music past and future, into a new style of music that is solid, vital and uniquely his own.
"I'm just now figuring myself out," he explains. "I've just now gotten to the point of playing my kind of music. I've played so many kinds of music with so many people, it was a long way back to my heart and soul. I've got it now. This rockin' honky tonk music."
|Marty Stuart may not wear a mask and a cape, but he just might be the crusader he proclaims to be on the liner notes of his Tempted album. But Marty doesn't need a cape. He has a wardrobe stocked with flashy threads from Manuel of Hollywood, making him the most dashing performer to take to the country stage since Porter Wagoner ushered in the Nudie suits.
Now, on to the album. I couldn't resist the temptation listening to Tempted to let my mind drift back in musical time. A time when hillbilly music infiltrated rock 'n' roll and took the country by storm. What were Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Everly Brothers but hillbillies at heart? They all had rural, country roots.
And that's where Marty's roots are firmly planted. The title track, written by Marty and Paul Kennerley, is a '50s Buddy Holly-type of thing with twangy guitars, while "Little Things," also from the same pair, reminded me of something from Jerry Lee Lewis' early days.
Marty also selected some classics: "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome" (Bill Monroe/Hank Williams), a chink-a-chink version with some tasty licks, and "Burn Me Down" (Eddie Miller), a smoldering gem of a song.
Then, there's Neil Young's "Get Back To The Country" which is a rousing album-ender with plenty of hot picking.
Another plus to this album is the electric guitar work of Ray Flacke on select cuts. The English fingerpicking genius is now in Marty's touring band and is one of the best players ever to land in Nashville.
Marty has surrounded himself with all the accoutrements for a successful crusade including Ernest Tubb's old tour bus. But most of all, he brings an attitude to his music that just won't quit.
|Highlights: "Little Things," "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," "Till I Found You."
Critique: Marty Stuart's last album, Hillbilly Rock, felt like a classic automobile that the owner wouldn't allow on the open road. It was a loving tribute that never got up to speed. With Tempted, Stuart slaps on a sharp paint job and sticks a new engine under the hood, then he tears off into the night. Richard Bennett, riding shotgun as guitarist and co-producer, goads Stuart into punching the pedal at hairpin curves.
The first single, "Little Things," combines the best parts of Stuart's nostalgic neobilly--lonesome harmonies, a rolling Buddy Holly rush, and a guitar solo as exciting as the sound of rubber burning into asphalt. Occasionally the paint wears thin, a reminder that Stuart's running a machine that's seen many owners: A cover of Johnny Cash's "Blue Train," for example, pulls directly from Bruce Springstreen's "I'm On Fire." But most of Tempted shines brightly as Stuart travels the winding stretch of lost highway that connects Neil Young with Hank Williams and Bill Monroe.
By Brian Mansfield
|May 16, 2012|
Marty Stuarts second release for MCA was released in January 1991. Like its predecessor, Tempted was produced by Richard Bennett and Tony Brown, and contained a balance of some of Martys original compositions and some well-chosen covers that paid homage to country musics past. It is a little less rockabilly-oriented than Hillbilly Rock, with more emphasis on harmonies and more prominent use of the steel guitar.
The first single Little Things was written by Marty and Paul Kennerley. It follows the same template as Hillbilly Rock and matched that songs chart performance, peaking at #8. It was, in fact, Martys first Top 10 since Hillbilly Rock and his second Top 10 overall. He stumbled slightly with the next release, the ballad Till I Found You, which was written by Paul Kennerley and Hank DeVito. It just missed the Top 10, peaking at #12. Ive always found the song a bit lacking in energy and its my least favorite track on the album. Much better is the title track, another Stuart-Kennerley composition, which reached #5, becoming Martys highest charting single as a solo artist. It is my favorite of all of Martys mainstream singles. Burn Me Down, a rockabilly number written by Eddie Miller was the albums fourth and final single. It too reached the Top 10, topping out at #7.
With the exception of the title track, the real meat of this collection is in the album cuts. Most Stuart albums include a Johnny Cash tune, and Tempted is no exception. This time he chose to cover Blue Train. It is a decent performance but even those unfamiliar with the original will instantly recognize it as a Johnny Cash song. It just underscores how difficult it can be to put ones own mark on an iconic figures song, though the intent seems to be to pay tribute to Cash, rather than to reinterpret his work. Im Blue, Im Lonesome which opens the album was written by Bill Monroe and Hank Williams and serves as notice to the listener that Marty Stuart was more than just a mere hillbilly rocker, with a deep respect for country musics heritage. Paint The Town Tonight with its heavy emphasis on the Telecaster and steel guitar is a Stuart original composition that is reminiscent of Buck Owens. It really should have been released as a single. Half a Heart is a straightforward country number that is one of two tunes on which Marty collaborated with the then very popular songwriter Kostas. It too should have been released as a single. The album closes with the fiddle-led hoedown number Get Back To The Country, which surprisingly was written by Neil Young, a name not normally associated with traditional country music.
Tempted is the best of Martys major label efforts, with nine excellent tracks (Till I Found You is the only one that falls a bit short) and marks the peak of commercial success. It was his second gold album and the most well received by country radio. It is his only album to contain more than one Top 10 hit. Unfortunately, after Burn Me Down he would never again reach the Top 10 as a solo artist, although two collaborations with Travis Tritt did chart inside the Top 10. Tempted is easy to find and worthy of inclusion in any country music fans collection.
By Razor X
|Could be called Marty Stuart Sells Out. A basic suck-up-to-radio outing, the title track recalls Johnny Cash's glory days with such triumphant abandon, the airwave fodder is almost irrelevant. With a beat that's unrelenting and an attitude that's all desire, Stuart evokes Cash's staunch resolve as he stands by the woman who's not there. [Three Stars]|
|Return To Album Reviews||Return To Home Page|