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Album Review

On the surface, Marty Stuart's Soul's Chapel is a gospel album — but only on the surface. Certainly all of the tracks here, whether covers or originals — and the album is divided neatly between the two — the topical considerations come from the Southern church. Stuart has always been adventurous in reinterpreting the music he holds most dear, from bluegrass to honky tonk to rockabilly. His take on gospel is no less ambitious. Here, blues, soul, R&B, hard country, and early country-rockabilly — along with gorgeous four-part harmony — wend and wind around one another to create a tapestry so rich, so utterly full of honest emotion and joy, that it transcends the intended genre; not by subverting or bastardizing it, but by showing how gospel music is inherent in all of the other traditions that Stuart employs. The album opens with Pops Staples' "Somebody Saved Me." The song is reverent, and contains gorgeous backing vocals provided by the Fabulous Superlatives (Harry Stinson, Brian Glenn, and Kenny Vaughn), while Stuart apes that snaky, spooky guitar Pops played. But this is no mere cover job — Stuart and friends bring out some of the bluesy wildness in the song without revving it up. And speaking of blues, Stuart's cover of Albert Brumley's "Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time" contains the trademark guitar riff from "Baby Please Don't Go." Another high point is "Come into the House of the Lord," written by Stuart and Vaughn, which is just a stomping gospel rocker with swirling B3, twin guitars, and a snapping trap kit. "It's Time to Go Home" is a rollicking rockabilly stomper that is equal parts Tommy Dorsey's gospel-vocal and Johnny Burnette's salacious wildness! "Move Along Train," written by Pops, includes a smoking guest appearance by Mavis Staples. and the read of Steve Cropper and William Bell's "Slow Train" is a soul masterpiece with a killer vocal by Stinson, supported by Barry Beckett's Hammond B3. Stuart stands up to the classic material; he writes in the idiom, but with his own strengths at the fore — especially notable is "There's a Rainbow (At the End of Every Storm)." This is one of, if not the, strongest outing of Stuart's career, and it not only pays homage to gospel music's rich and varied tradition, but adds to it.

Souls' Chapel, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives
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