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Country Music: The Masters by Marty Stuart

By Marty Stuart

Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 384 pages, $31.49

Reviewed by C. Eric Banister, April 2009

Find it on Amazon
Marty Stuart has become a country music historian and preservationist out of both necessity and opportunity. Arriving in Nashville at the age of 13 to join Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass, Stuart went where Flatt went and that means, as Stuart notes in the forward of the book, "his buddies became my buddies." They played cards together, picked music together, sat around and talked about life and music. These buddies were like a who's who of country and bluegrass music: Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Stringbean, Roy Acuff and Grandpa Jones, to name a few.

After seeing a jazz photo exhibit, Stuart bought a camera and began to snap photos of those around him. "Country Music: The Masters" contains some of those photos throughout its 300 pages. Photos of fans and friends show the life Stuart grew up in. There are photos of rare concert posters, instruments and stage outfits taken using parts of Stuarts' massive country music memorabilia collection. There are also stately portraits of artists like Vern Gosdin, Merle Haggard, Connie Smith and many others, including the portrait of Johnny Cash, taken just four days before his death, that graces the cover.

Fans of country music history will find plenty to learn and reminisce about within the pages of "The Masters." Also included in the book is a 21-track CD to accompany the book. Three songs are instrumentals featuring Stuart on guitar or mandolin and one track is the only commercially available studio recording of Stuarts' tribute to Johnny Cash, Dark Bird. The remaining 17 tracks feature Stuart recounting the stories surrounding some of the photos and correspond to specific pages denoted with a small CD and track number symbol. It is a fantastic idea and is like sitting with Stuart as he personally guides you through the book telling great stories about his time spent with these country music legends.

This is strictly a book of photographs, so those looking to read stories about these masters must look elsewhere, but as the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words," and here it is worth so much more.