Country sounds of a Bastard Son come to Carbondale |

Country sounds of a Bastard Son come to Carbondale

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Courtesy photo

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Don’t even ask bandleader Mark Stuart the question you’re dying to. The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash won’t do a Cash cover for you.

It’s not that he doesn’t love the man, explained Stuart. He’s just his own man.

“Our way of honoring him is to be true to ourselves and honor our music,” he said.

The band has quite a few reasons to pay its respects. When Stuart, the lead singer-guitarist, was first starting out with the group more than a decade ago, he knew he wanted to use Cash’s name to describe his almost anti-country country sound. So, Stuart brashly snuck onto a television show’s set where he knew Cash was. He left a tape, with a note wrapped around it, in Cash’s trailer.

Cash gave him more than just his blessing.

The Man in Black loved what he heard. He actually secured gigs for Stuart and even let the band record some in his house. Stuart described the experience “like a Catholic meeting the Pope,” and it goes without saying that he was in a constant state of shock. He thinks Cash admired his gumption, not to mention the genre-busting musical style he had about him.

“It’s like an ‘f-you’ to the mainstream Nashville community, and I think he liked that,” said Stuart.

After getting that powerful dose of validation, Stuart still doesn’t feel the need for any more, even all these years later. He knows his band could probably make more money as a Cash tribute act, but he would never compromise his artistic vision like that. This isn’t the kind of group to act out of some dirty commercial interest. They don’t have the coolest clothes, the oldest instruments or the craziest concert antics.

“I’m not going to drink a fifth of Jack Daniels and hit someone over the head with my guitar,” Stuart said.

So what, exactly, do his Bastard Sons have going for them?

In his words, “We’re a kick ass band, and we put on a good show.”

People tell him all the time that they don’t like country music, but they like him. It makes sense. While his tunes have a good deal of twang, they sound miles away from the popular, glittery Western music of the last few years. His is more reminiscent of big skies and deserts and the inevitable lonesomeness of open Western roads than it is of Garth Brooks.

“It’s not completely hard core,” Stuart stressed, “And I don’t want to hear a fiddle every damn song.”

He’s definitely found a legion of fans who feel the same. Since 1999, when he quit his day job to fully commit to the band, he’s been touring like a wild man with his ever-changing cast of bandmates. Usually traveling in their 15-person van, they hit up from 150-200 gigs a year.

Being almost always on the road is now fully planted under Stuart’s skin.

“You’re sort of part of the nomadic brotherhood,” he explained. “Somehow, you feel like you belong to everybody and nobody.”

It’s like he’s going back to basics, just delivering music to people in the simplest way he knows how. He doesn’t care where he’s playing or how much money makes, he insisted, just as long as people show up and have a great time.

And they don’t insist he plays any Johnny Cash.

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

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