Reviewed by T.J. Simon
In preparation for the creation of this concept album, Marty Stuart spent time living among the Native American Lakota Tribe while touring sacred sites and the places of the tribe's many tragedies. Stuart's empathy with the Lakota shines through loud and clear on each of the 13 tracks of contemporary country storytelling. In fact, Stuart has been adopted by the tribe and given the name "O Yate O Chee Ya'Ka Hospita" or "The Man Who Helps The People."
Musically, "Badlands" is a mixed bag of fresh and interesting numbers ("Broken Promise Land" and "Casino") alongside uninspired songcraft housing a compelling story ("Trip to Little Big Horn" and "Wounded Knee"). Stuart trots out familiar, yet valid, gripes concerning America's public policy toward Native Americans on the tired "So You Want To Be An Indian" while perfectly capturing the sound of the West on the brilliant instrumental, "Hotchkiss Gunner's Lament."
"Badlands" succeeds as an easily-digestible oral history set to contemporary music, and those with an interest in Native American culture and mythology will likely find the disc to be an interesting treatise. However, those seeking a straightforward and catchy country album would do well to look elsewhere in Stuart's vast catalog.