Marty Stuart’s book – The Pilgrim: A Wall-To-Wall Odyssey, releases on Valentine’s Day. A coffee table book that through real stories and Marty’s personal archived photos, help chronicle the spiritual and artistic journey that culminated in Stuart’s 1999 concept album, The Pilgrim. Based on true events from his hometown, The Pilgrim became a journey that changed the path, and set the course, for who Marty Stuart would become. It re-introduced him to his roots. BMG has released the book and packaged within is a remastered version of that original album, including ten bonus tracks featuring guest performances by Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, Uncle Josh Graves, Earl Scruggs, and Connie Smith.
The Pilgrim: A Wall-To-Wall Odyssey, is a beautifully illustrated 11″ x 10.5″ hardcover book. It makes the connections between Stuart and the people and places that formed the songs on the album. The book serves as a detailed peek into song-crafting. If it’s science you’re after, this book connects the dots. If you’re looking for the magic, this book hints at where to find it. But if you’re looking for the heart, it’s written in The Pilgrim.
The Pilgrim, was ahead of its time. It was a creative endeavor that followed and flowed out of Marty Stuart’s heart. It took some time for people to catch on, but eventually these songs made their way into ours as well. Happy Valentine’s Day. If you’ll indulge me, I’m following my heart in writing this. This is my account, as it happened, from when I first opened the cover.
It’s a snowy Saturday morning. Marty Stuart’s The Pilgrim: A Wall-To-Wall Odyssey, arrived on my doorstep the other day and begged opening. I did, and was immediately enthralled. I had heard the 20-year old album that this book chronicles, only recently. It’s really good and I’m sorry it took so long, but I’m ready now I suppose. As Marty Stuart himself says, “An old friend is back in town”.
Marty Stuart followed his heart to record in the middle of the night at the famed Sun Studios. Cowboy Jack Clement had said that’s the way you do things, so he did. “…as my black Cadillac and I rolled into town…There was a slow burning hovering above the asphalt…roads that had seen it all, yet say nothing…” Marty didn’t have a handful of original songs prepared, but felt it was the time and place to be. During that session he learned of the passing of his hero Bill Monroe. More than a hero. Monroe had gifted Marty with all the confidence a young boy can hold in a hand-me-down pick. He was a presence in Marty Stuart’s life from the age of twelve and that night, in the shadow of the great Sun Studio, Marty shed his tears in the form of verses. The title track was born of mourning and recorded on the spot, the band felt their way through it in one take. Ten minutes that set the course for the album proved that following his heart was the right thing to do.
The last song was written first and the rest became a search for the beginning. Following his heart lead him to love (Connie Smith). Following his heart led him to art. And, through the words of Thomas B. Allen, following his heart led him to the story.
“It shouldn’t take more than a lifetime, although it seems you are on your way” – Thomas B. Allen
There are two photos of president Roosevelt’s train leaving Nashville. They became the foundation of the Pilgrim’s story, and grace the back cover of the album. The beginnings frame the end.
Marty followed his heart and opened up his home to a gathering of artists, musicians, mentors, and love, and the overall soundscape of The Pilgrim was born. It was the reminder of a long-buried saga of a family friend, and the real life characters involved, that became the blueprints of The Pilgrim.
Gathering collections for his homes “Gallery of Thomas B. Allen”, a stained glass “Sir Galahad” joined the collection that began the journey. Sunlight filtered in at the right moment and highlighted a passage within the glass. Words written by nineteenth century poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and echoed in the one man’s voice that embodies the word, Johnny Cash set the tone. And so the beginning and the end became one,
I suppose I’m a bit late to The Pilgrims table for the same reasons The Pilgrim got tabled, commercialism. I turned off and tuned out what the industry was handing out. It took some time to find the gems in the fine print at festivals or the back-end of the charts. The Pilgrim, and the book chronicling the journey, is the heart within the art and worthy of the path between then and now. Enjoy it for what it is. I’m glad it’s stood its ground.
– Viola Krouse