Dave's Review

Soul's Chapel
Marty Stuart

Rating: 4 STARS

Label: Superlatone Records
Producer: Marty Stuart
Websites: www.universal-south.com and www.martystuart.net
Song Titles: "Somebody Saved Me," "Lord, Give Me Just A Little More Time," "Way Down," "Come Into This House Of The Lord," "The Gospel Story Of Noah's Ark," "I Can't Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)," "It's Time To Go Home," "The Unseen Hand," "There's A Rainbow (At The End Of Every Storm)," "Slow Train," "Move Along Train," and "Soul's Chapel"

Marty Stuart has been performing music professionally since the early 1970s. He was hired to play rhythm guitar for Flatt and Scruggs while still a young teen. His first major Country hit came more than 15 years later. It was called "Hillbilly Rock" and came from the recording by the same name in 1989. 2005's Soul's Chapel is Stuart's first Gospel recording. It's also one of the first releases from Stuart's newly formed record label, Superlatone Records.

This project can only be categorized as a blend of styles. There's not really a name for this type of music, but you can hear elements of Delta blues, Soul, and Country. Some Southern Gospel fans will find it appealing, while others may very well dismiss it. Most SG fans should at least appreciate the harmony and song selection. Although Soul's Chapel has a distinctly different sound, it's a "back to roots" sort of CD that could sit on the shelf beside Russ Taff's Under Their Influence and Michael English's Gospel projects and not look out of place.

The recording opens with "Somebody Saved Me," which has the single guitar accompaniment mixed almost entirely to the right channel and three part vocals mixed up the middle. The slow tempo sets the character of the recording and the vocals slide into pitches rather than attacking them head on. Albert E. Brumley's "Lord, Give Me Just A Little More Time" is up next with a walking bass and drums providing the foundation while two electric guitars (mixed hard right and left) provide a mid-tempo rhythm. The sliding vocal harmonies continue on this cut. Stuart and his Superlatone band's drummer Harry Stinson wrote the next number ("Way Down"), which is the most upbeat track on the CD. A bit of Hammond-ish organ gets into the mix on this one. Stuart co-wrote the next two numbers as well: "Come Into The House Of The Lord" with guitarist Kenny Vaughan (who plays guitar on the recording) and "The Gospel Story Of Noah's Ark" with Jerry Sullivan. The first half of the CD concludes with the classic "I Can't Even Walk."

Stuart also wrote "It's Time To Go Home" and the instrumental title track, "Soul's Chapel," which closes out the CD. He co-wrote "There's A Rainbow" with Stinson as well. There's a slow version of "The Unseen Hand" on the second half of the CD with some great harmonies that should appeal to Southern Gospel fans. Also of note on the back side of the CD is a duet with Black Gospel legend Mavis Staples. Stuart and Staples sing a song written by Roebuck "Pop" Staples called "Move Along Train." Pop Staples also wrote "Somebody Saved Me," which opens the CD.

Soul's Chapel requires an acquired taste to enjoy, particularly if your tastes in music are narrow. The mix feels odd at the beginning of the CD with one guitar coming out of the right speaker. It's so soft, the vocals nearly drown it out. As you listen to the rest of the project, though, you can understand why it was done this way. The initial guitar remains where it first appeared as other instruments (including a contrasting guitar on the left side) are added to the mix on other songs. By the third song, there's a full band sound under the voices. It's almost like one guy started playing at first, and then others gradually joined in. This recording isn't what I'd call "innovative" at all. There's actually a nostalgic quality. By borrowing from several musical influences and layering gospel lyrics and harmonies on top, Stuart has made Soul's Chapel stand well outside the norm for modern music.

A project of this sort is difficult to rate on a scale of 1 to 5, particularly for a Southern Gospel website. Fans of Soul's Chapel who really "get it" will be shocked if it's rated less than 5 Stars. On the other hand, there will be those who don't think it deserves more than 3, and I have to consider that I'm writing this review primarily for fans in the Southern Gospel field where neither Stuart himself nor this style of music are particularly popular. That's why I've sort of wimped out here with a 4 Star rating, but just understand that IF you like this sort of music, you're going to really like it.

by David Bruce Murray

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