Since joining Lester Flatt’s band as a 13-year-old mandolin virtuoso in 1972, Marty Stuart has built a reputation as one of country music’s premier showmen and memory keepers. While the Grammy-winning Philadelphia, Mississippi, native and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee has won plenty of accolades for his original music, he’s also known for paying tribute to his musical forefathers, whether preserving artifacts from country legends or lending his expertise as a producer or collaborator.
Stuart’s top-notch ear and respect for his peers are on full display in his latest project, Songs I Sing in the Dark. Recorded last year, the album shines a light on the songs that consoled him during isolation, including several covers—think Merle Haggard’s “I Can’t Hold Myself in Line” or Tommy Cash’s “Six White Horses.” He’s debuting one track a month for twenty months, and today, G&G is proud to premiere the fourth installment of the series: a stripped-down take on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Fault Lines.”
“I’ve never made any bones about it: I think Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band that the United States of America has ever produced,” Stuart says. “They were modern-day gladiators in every sense of the word.” The country star fell in love with “Fault Lines” after stumbling upon the group’s final album, Hypnotic Eye, in a record store in 2014 during a Canadian tour with his band, the Fabulous Superlatives. “I bought it, took it back to the tour bus, and gave it a listen,” he recalls. “When ‘Fault Lines’ came charging out of the speakers, I stood up, turned the volume up way too loud, and played the song three times back-to-back.”
He immediately called Petty directly—as one does when you’re Marty Stuart—but got his voicemail. Undeterred, he reached Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. “I got him on the line and proceeded to throw roses and go on about the song—his guitar playing, the band, the writing, the production on the album, Tom’s singing, and on and on,” Stuart says. “When I finally took a breath and shut up, Campbell said, ‘So, you like it?’”
Stuart hopped on the phone with Campbell again six years later as he prepared to add his spin to the number for Songs I Sing in the Dark. “This time, [it was] to ask him about a particular chord he’d played when they’d recorded the song,” Stuart says, and Campbell happily shared an over-the-phone guitar lesson. “The following day, as I was driving to the session, I decided to try ‘Fault Lines’ as a mandolin piece. Without a clue as to how it would turn out, I stepped up to the microphone and went for it.” It took only one take for Stuart to realize he’d landed on something special.
Watch the performance below, and keep an eye out for more from Songs I Sing in the Dark on Stuart’s website.