We know a lot of you skip right past the Country & Western racks when you go to your local record store every Tuesday, but today there's a reason to slow your roll towards the Rihanna display. Legendary country showman Porter Wagoner's The Wagonmaster is on the shelves. It was produced by one of our faves Marty Stuart, and it is just as fitting for a muggy
May June afternoon as anything else we can think of. After the jump, read our profile on Mr. Wagoner from the current issue, and if you're in LA, check the dapper man with Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives in action this Sunday at Safari Sam's.
**UPDATE** Porter Wagoner is opening for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden on July 24th, and the video for his Johnny Cash-written "Committed to Parkview" just hit the internet.
The revival of Porter Wagoner
By Will Welch
A couple years back Rick Rubin started a trend that seems to be outliving its status as merely a trend: accomplished and still-relevant musicians producing credible albums for aging legends who still have greatness left but need a little guidance. Rubin famously did it for Johnny Cash, Jack White did it for Loretta Lynn, Bobby Bare Jr did it for Bobby Bare and now Marty Stuart has done it for Porter Wagoner. Wagoner, of course, had The Porter Wagoner Show, which was a hit among country audiences in the ’60s and ’70s. But while the Thin Man from West Plains, Missouri has had over 80 songs chart in his career, both the show and Wagoner himself are probably most famous for launching the career of Dolly Parton. That said, Wagoner is also an institution at country’s greatest institution, the Grand Old Opry, where he has regularly appeared since 1957.
The comeback record with the 48-year-old, hyper-eclectic country artist Marty Stuart, called The Wagonmaster, is resplendent in its simplicity. Stuart and his aging friend picked a bunch of great songs (one of them written by Cash specifically for Wagoner), put together a crack band and knocked it out in three days. Significantly, it is neither too slick nor too hip, and Stuart gives Wagoner the room to be himself. Wagoner’s loveable persona, rhinestone Nudie suits and sense of rural showmanship make it easy to forget that, while he’s never been an outlaw, he’s always been a hard country singer with some poignantly heavy songs in his repertoire.
At a recent show in New York City, Wagoner had a bunch of charming Nashville stories to tell. “When Chet Atkins heard this song for the first time, he told me, ‘That’s the best song you’ve ever written,” Wagoner said of “Rubber Room,” his daunting minor chord nightmare. “I said, ‘The hell it is.’ He said, ‘It’s not a country song but it’s gonna make you a whole bunch of money.’ He thought some big rock stars were gonna do it…. So me and Marty’s gonna do it.” Wagoner was poking fun at himself and his friend, but between Stuart’s outrageous hair metal mane and Wagoner’s over the top, rhinestone encrusted suit, it was kind of like, Rock stars? Who needs rock stars? Soon they were covering Hank Williams, who died of drugs and booze at age 29, but for the first time ever it seemed cooler to live to see 80.