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Marty Stuart

The Pilgrim – 1999 (MCA)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Marty Stuart

Now for something completely different - a concept album about love and suicide and drinking and searching. Thank Marty Stuart, who made a career album with this well-conceived 20-song package. The basic story is a love triangle where the jilted kills himself, while the lover leaves town for a life of despair. For awhile anyway.

Stuart mixes different musical styles ranging from bluegrass to honky tonk to country to blues country to a Tom Petty-like offering. Yes, he has help from folks like Cash, Harris and Stanley, but Stuart clearly is the cornerstone. And the styles help keep the disc moving musically. The writing is superb with a spiritual quality underlying the story. While certainly a downer, redemption is ultimately at hand for The Pilgrim. Several songs are radio friendly ("Sometimes the Pleasure's Worth the Pain," "Goin' Nowhere Fast") and stand up on their own without the concept idea.

As risky as the album is, that is also how good it is. Stuart has not had a good run for a few albums, but clearly deserves it with this. This disc is his musical and lyrical redemption.