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Marty Stuart
Badlands: Ballads Of The Lakota
Superlatone Records

Marty Stuart has long been one of the standard bearers of the more traditional (and good) country movement. He's been making country records full of heart and twang for more years than I can remember, and his pedigree speaks for itself. This year has seen Marty make some bold moves in his career and his personal life. After a life changing experience, he has formed his own record label, Superlatone Records, and released two records. The first is the amazingly honest and soulful gospel record Soul's Chapel, and the second is called Badlands - Ballads Of The Lakota. Badlands is a collection of songs that tell the stories of the great fall of the Lakota Sioux people and the spiritual paths that lay behind many of those stories.

Badlands begins and ends with the voice and throb of the Native American drumming ceremony, setting the tone for the record with an authenticity that might be otherwise overlooked. Stuart sets the stage for his songs in "Badlands", giving a brief geographical and historical overview of the Sioux Nation, espousing the overall hope that is found on this collection of songs. Marty Stuart's trademark sounds are nowhere more clear than on this opening track, the throttling drums of Harry Stinson and Brian Glenn's solid bass guitar underpinning the twanging and crisp guitars of Stuart and the indomitable Kenny Vaughan. "Trip To Little Big Horn" speaks as an overview of the stories that are to be found on the remainder of the record, a starting point for the heartbreak that is to follow. "Old Man's Vision" is a simple tale, told over a heartbeat drumming, the story of an elder of the tribe that foresees the coming pain of his people's massacre at Wounded Knee by George Custer. Johnny Cash's deeply evocative "Big Foot" is recorded here, revealing Cash's depth of feeling for these bold people, a feeling that Stuart continues to carry in his own heart. Robby Turner turns in some amazing steel guitar playing that brilliantly offsets the phenomenal guitar of Kenny Vaughan. "Broken Promise Land" reveals that political America is still making promises to the people of the reservations that are as empty as any ever made in the past. Stuart's true power as a songwriter comes fully to bear on "So You Want To Be An Indian", a song that is at once full of ironic depth and such raw emotion that I find myself lost in it, unable to turn away. This is the true command of a great song, not only does it draw in a modern ear but it reflects the pure power of the traditional Lakota songs, as well. The beautiful "Three Chiefs" pays homage to three of the great leaders of the Lakota Sioux Nation; Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull. This track lays out succinctly what these great men may have had to say to God when they approached the pearly gates after their passing from this world. It is a touching and eerie tale that sends shivers up one's spine while listening. "Listen To The Children" wraps the record with a breath of hope, lifted upon the soft strings and acoustic guitars that can't help but instill a feeling of hope and resigned peace.

The Lakota people have demonstrated their high regard for Marty Stuart by adopting him into their tribe, making him family. The strong connection that Stuart formed with the people of this once great Nation was begun in his early years touring with Johnny Cash's band, and has continued to deepen throughout the years, revealing its depth and sincerity in such facts as the recent marriage ceremony of Stuart to his wife Connie Smith on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Stuart's feelings for these Sioux, his second people, are nothing short of genuine, and these songs are made for education as well as a celebration of the Lakota Sioux Nation. There is a deep pain in these songs, but there is also an earnest hope for the salvation of these great peoples and a greater hope that others will learn from the lessons spoken of herein.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Everette Helper's Song
2. Badlands
3. Trip To Little Big Horn
4. Old Man's Vision
5. Wounded Knee
6. Big Foot
7. Hotchkiss Gunner's Lament
8. Broken Promise Land
9. Casino
10. So You Want To Be An Indian
11. Walking Through The Prayers
12. Three Chiefs
13. Listen To The Children

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