Marty Stuart

Anthology of Duets – 2007 (Superlatone)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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Marty Stuart, in recent times a crack producer and archivist, focuses on his own career for this entertaining, albeit uneven, 14-song collection of duets.

Culled from different eras, the songs traverse rural country paeans with Merle Haggard ("Farmer Blues"), Tennessee Three style prison ditties with Johnny Cash ("Doin' My Time") and gospel-infused babyboomer classics with the Staple Singers ("The Weight"). By contrast, Stuart's turns with classic country legends George Jones ("One Woman Man") and Loretta Lynn (the previously unreleased "Will You Visit Me On Sunday") are ragged and shrill, respectively.

At its rootsy best, the disc cooks hardest when Stuart blazes through mandolin riffs as a 15-year-old phenom with Flatt & Scruggs ("Rawhide") or trades licks with banjo master Earl Scruggs ("Mr. John Henry, Steel Driving Man"). Equally fine, are the gorgeous bluegrass harmonies conjured with Del McCoury ("Let Us Travel, Travel On").

Although he is a masterful multi-instrumentalist, Stuart has never demonstrated great vocal range. As a result, the passionate utterances of B.B. King ("Confessin' the Blue"), The Staples ("Move Along Train") and hit duet partner Travis Tritt ("The Whiskey Ain't Working") completely overshadow the star. That said, Stuart's ability to take artistic risks renders this occasionally thrilling set worth hearing.