Saturday, September 24, 2005

Interview: Marty Stuart

Here’s an interview with Marty Stuart that aired on NPR this week. Marty talks to All Things Considered about gospel and southern gospel music, family harmony, the Staple Singers, grace and redemption and what it’s like to play Pop Staples’ guitar.

I'm really enjoying the warmth, earthiness and honesty of Stuart's latest album, Souls' Chapel. And the liner art is great, too. Enjoy.

This article from the Chicago Tribune tells more of Stuart's story and includes quotes from Mavis Staples. In my favorite section, Stuart shares part of his testimony:

"'I left home when I was 12 years old, and by the time I hit my early 40s, I had developed a fantastic appetite for a rock 'n' roll lifestyle,' Stuart says. 'It started out as fun, and somewhere along the way it became a problem. Well, I got arrested for it three years ago, went and got help, meant business about it. And somewhere along the way, I did what I knew I shouldn't do.'

Stuart, after all, says he had been clean and sober for two years, but after the 2003 death of his hero and mentor Johnny Cash, he briefly fell off the wagon. 'Both of the arrests were very public,' he says. 'I was embarrassed; I was in shock. Especially the second time it was like, how did this happen? We were in the middle of bringing ["Souls' Chapel"] to life. I just felt totally unqualified; I felt totally powerless, totally worthless. And I felt like a pure hypocrite that would stand up there and sing about Jesus, at the same time coming out of a jail cell. . . .' At the same time, it was just a great reminder of how serious the problem is, how you can never take your eye off the problem. But once again, God had a chance to do some work in my life. He sent a couple of angels.'

After Stuart was released from jail, he played a gig at FitzGerald's in Berwyn, and Mavis and Yvonne Staples drove to the roots-music club to surprise him. The two presented him with a gift: Pops Staples' oldest guitar. 'When they gave me that guitar, the worthlessness went away,' Stuart says. 'Being handed Roebuck Staples' guitar was a mighty gesture. I took it as a divine gesture.' 'We all cried that night,' recalls Mavis Staples. 'It was like the Lord sent us over there to lift up our baby brother.'"

What a moment! I love stories like this. To me, they serve as reminders that God uses imperfect people, and that he never gives up on us. He allows us to share in his work on earth, and he never, never thinks of us as worthless. And occasionally, he allows us to give that same gift of encouragement to others. May we be his hands and feet. Amen.

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