Marty Stuart and His Oh So Fabulous Superlatives
Delight and Surprise
Traipsing The Western Ethos
(Originally Published on AddictedToNoise.com.au)
By Rob Dickens
In composing this review of Way Out West by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, I have to say up front that there are at least five things I love about this outfit:
1. Stuart’s smooth, rich voice
2. Kenny Vaughn’s artistry, one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen. He can play fast, slow and in between, all with feeling and passion and totally in keeping with the song. He reminds me of the great James Burton (uber-session player and Elvis Presley’s long-preferred axe-man).
3. The Superlatives’ rhythm section is so driven, so tight. It is unstoppable
4. The vocal harmonies are a pleasure to behold.
5. Stuart’s sartorial elegance. He and Jim Lauderdale are front of pack when it comes to dapper leaders of the roots music world.
Ok, so you don’t get to see Stuart immaculately attired when you buy Way Out West. But you get the other aforementioned features, in spades!
Way Out West is released by Superlatone \ Cooking Vinyl Australia. It was produced by Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and The Superlatives are Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and bass player Chris Scruggs.
The album is an homage to the American West and the highly spiritual world of the Mojave desert.
‘Desert Prayer Part 1’ is a surprisingly hallucinatory introduction, full of Indian chants and desert atmospherics. ‘Mojave’ is a brilliant, evocative instrumental which shakes and resonates.
‘Lost On The Desert’ revisits Marty Robbins, with a jangling guitar narrative of dying on the hot sand, being pursued, with no respite. The title track (see clip below) is a profound out-of-control tale of various pills and the dangers therein. There are also large characters abounding, referencing Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, and sunny California, all under swirling, soaring harmonies. The way the song finishes is as important as its content.
‘El Fantasma Del Toro’ flashes its Mexican heritage, a little Calexico and a touch of Morricone, with Vaughn hypnotising all senses with his magic playing. ‘Old Mexico’ is more traditional Country with shining vocals.
‘Time Don’t Wait’ provides a shift – a driving rhythm, chord-laden sound wall and captivating bass lines. ‘Quicksand’ is another compelling, riff-driven instrumental which includes a blazing guitar solo. It is brief, but powerful.
‘Air Mail Special’ has a hurried, locomotive tempo where the Superlatives stretch out their considerable talents and ‘Please Don’t Say Goodbye’ is a well-constructed, plaintive love story. ‘Whole Lotta Highway (With A Million Miles To Go)’ is another beautifully arranged piece about life on the road, again with Vaughn filling in gaps with aplomb.
‘Desert Prayer – Part 2’ is another short, gorgeous song, this time with Beach Boys harmonies, and ‘Way Out West (Reprise)’ could fit a Western movie soundtrack perfectly, with its sweep, drama and emotion. It is a perfect book-end to this terrific collection.
Way Out West is an evocative treasure.
Here’s a clip for ‘Way Out West’.
Way Out West Tracklist:
1. Desert Prayer- Part 1
3. Lost On The Desert
4. Way Out West
5. El Fantasma Del Toro
6. Old Mexico
7. Time Don’t Wait
9. Air Mail Special
11. Please Don’t Say Goodbye
12. Whole Lotta Highway (With A Million Miles To Go)
13. Desert Prayer – Part 2
14. Wait For The Morning
15. Way Out West (Reprise)
Via Thrillhill Music