Country music has had a lifelong friend in Marty Stuart.
A card-carrying champion of The Bakersfield Sound and humbly committed to the hallowed traditions extending from his Southern roots, the silver-coiffed multi-instrumentalist, producer and hit maker is always dabbling in some noteworthy project.
And with the release of his latest album, “Way Out West,” a rousing collection of tunes inspired by the surf, sand and desert sun of California, Stuart will show why he’s also one of country music’s hippest cats when he and the Fabulous Superlatives take the stage Thursday at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace.
Stuart describes the album as a "love letter to the American West," including those elements — music, hip and groovy cars, go-go girls and TV cowboys — that inspired him and the Superlatives as young musicians.
“And it’s especially just a love letter and a twangified spirit world journey through the Mojave desert," he said during a recent interview.
Opening with the haunting “Desert Prayer, Pt. 1” intro before launching into the surfy “Mojave,” its “Lost on The Desert” that will pull you aboard “Way Out West” for the ride, and what a cool ride it is. Fans of the classic outlaw tales of Marty Robbins mixed with the surf sounds of Dick Dale and the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone will love this record. And yes, there’s plenty of fiery picking, especially on “Air Mail Special.” The entire album swoons as much as it smokes from beginning to end.
Recorded at his home studio, Stuart wrapped the sessions at Capital Records studios in Hollywood, where Buck Owens and Merle Haggard both recorded some of their most popular works. In addition to his longtime mates, he also enlisted Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell to record on and produce the project.
“I knew that California was the right place to make this record. I wanted to walk out of the studio and see palm trees and blue skies and feel the air of Southern California. I knew we could have recorded this album in Nashville but I wanted that authentic California atmosphere on this.”
Recorded prior to the passing of Tom Petty, Campbell’s presence evokes the spirit of the Heartbreakers’ classic California studio era. Stuart recalled his friendship with Petty, including a show together at summer's end, and hearing the news of his death while on tour in England.
" ... I walk into a store in London and the clerk said 'Too bad about Tom Petty,' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said Tom Petty had passed away. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I did not see that coming, and I miss him. But the thing that Tom has in common with, say, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and Johnny Cash and all those people we’ve been talking who inspired like 'Way Out West,' is those songs. Man, those songs of his would lift anyone.”
For Stuart, the connections that bind his new album are just an extension of his style — one that has always has come with a tip of the hat to authentic honky-tonk. Always with an eye on the present, Stuart also understands the importance of giving back.
“I view it more as a personal mission out of absolute love for the music and the people who created it. Most of those people were master architects of American music or country music, if you will. And they raised me, so it is just simply about passing it on. And that’s the mission statement right now, passing it on, getting it in the hearts of a whole-new generation of people.
"The good news is they’re out there. I look at Ben Haggard; Lukas Nelson, Willie’s son; Chris Scruggs in my band. I see guys like Charlie Worsham, Ashley McBryde. There are so many young musicians who carry traditional country music in their hearts and they’re making it sound contemporary and fresh. And when I hear that, I know that we are onto something.”
And for Stuart, it’ll be more than just a homecoming at the Crystal Palace on Thursday. He’ll be thinking of his friends and heroes, Buck and Merle.
“Bakersfield is just one of those places where I feel like it’s a spiritual hotspot that I have to come by and touch down at least once a year and then I’ll feel like I’ve done something.
"My goal is to come up with a wonderful blue-collar night of country music and just play by the rules of what Bakersfield is famous for when it comes to making country music and country fans happy.”
If you haven’t got your ticket yet, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Also performing Thursday is rockabilly, surf guitar blazer Deke Dickerson. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Crystal Palace, 2800 Buck Owens Blvd. Tickets available for $32 to $39 plus service fees. Call 328-7560 or visit buckowens.com.
Cash’d Out, 8 p.m. Thursday, B Ryder’s, 3401 White Lane. $12 plus service charge, all-ages show. 397-7304.
Hands down, this is the best Johnny Cash tribute band in the country, if not the world. Based out of San Diego, they play, sound, act and party like the real deal. Shows go for hours, with no hit left behind. Have a designated driver. You might be stumbling before the encore. Also appearing are Bako’s own Iron Outlaws. More information at ticketweb.com.
Celso Pina, 8 p.m. Friday, Elements Venue, 3401 Chester Ave. $28.45 to 39.01 plus service charge. 301-4681.
Accordion slinger Celso Pina is a music legend in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. For years he's written some of the greatest songs in the Colombian cumbia/vallenato genre, and played music steadily on the same dancehall circuit that so many legends like him do until they fall into obscurity and fade into retirement. But in 2001, Pina was given a big boost from the Latin alternative-rock scene, which helped reignite the aging star's career. He remains busy touring around the world in front of every scene imaginable from pop to punk rock. If you’ve ever found yourself at a Mexican wedding over the past decade or so, chances are you’ve danced to his hit “Cumbia Sobre del Rio” and you didn’t even know it. Also appearing are Bakersfield Latin rock brethren Velorio. Details at eventbrite.com.