“The moment country music was born, it started dying — at least according to a particular substrate of purists. For decades, they have dug in their heels for fiddle, for mandolin, for harmonies. Every so often, they get a win, pulling the rope over to their side in the endless tug-of-war between country music that incorporates the pop trends of the day (for both creative and commercial reasons), and country music that prioritizes mining the music’s widely mythologized tradition.
Marty Stuart was one of those artists. On 1982’s Busy Bee Cafe, the singer and mandolin player flaunted his real country bona fides via both his prodigious picking and the gaudy talent among the album’s personnel — earned in the course of a career that had already, apocryphally, lasted a decade in spite of the fact that Stuart was just 24 years old when the album was released. Far from being an appetizer to Stuart’s eventual commercial success, Busy Bee instead showcases his deep reverence for his musical forebears, radio playability be damned. The folksy release falls in line with a persistent strain of traditionalism even more than it does the commerce-minded revivals of Strait and Skaggs — a strain that endures today, fueled in part by inspiring performances like those captured on this album.”