Fifth Annual Late Night Jam, Ryman Auditorium on June 7, 2006

For my money, the best show of Fan Fair week takes place before the official start of the festivities. For the past 4 years, Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam has been a high energy, multi-genre concert that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. This year was no exception.

Marty and the Fabulous Superlatives, dressed in signature black, except for Kenny (who wore a rhinestone studded, cream colored suit that would make Porter Wagoner proud!) started the show with a crowd pleasing "Sure Wanna Keep My Wine." After welcoming all of us to the Ryman, Marty and the guys did "Homesick," "That's Country," the rousing instrumental "Buckaroo" and "Country Boy Rock and Roll." Marty chatted with the audience and thanked everyone for staying up late with him. He brought out Jim "the Governor" Hill, who once handled the merchandise table, but is now entertainment manager at the Nashville Palace. Jim introduced us to Matthew, who has taken his place with Marty on the road. The Governor had fun talking with the audience and encouraging everyone to have a good time.

When Marty performed at Atwood Water Park in Monticello, Mississippi, he met an 11-year-old fiddle player named Ruby Jane Smith, who brought him "her picture, a bio and a jar of relish." Marty invited her to come to the Jam and she really had the audience going with her fiddle playing and buck dancing.

After a big round of applause for Ruby Jane, Marty told us the story of meeting Connie Smith at the Choctaw Indian Fair when he was 12 years old. He brought his lovely wife out to entertain us with "If It Ain't Love," "I Never Once Stopped Loving You" and "How Long," which is the first song she and Marty ever co-wrote together with Harlen Howard. Connie introduced us to her band, the Men in Back, before doing "The Latest Shade of Blue," and then "Fight On." Marty joined his wife on stage and they performed the beautiful song "Hearts Like Our" together. I throughly enjoyed Connie's part of the show. Her voice is still spectacular and, as always, she looked georgeous.

The Gov came back out to entertain us while the next group set up. He gave away some t-shirts, told some stories and reminded us that Marty and the guys would be signing autographs after the show. Marty came out to introduce Th' Legendary Shack Shakers. Billed as a Rockabilly band, they describe their music as "American Gothic." The music was loud and I had a hard time hearing the words to most of their songs, but they were quite entertaining in a punk-rock-meets-country-music kind of way!

"I'm a member of a country club..." led into a version of "Me, Hank and Jumpin' Jack Flash" in which Marty changed the words and introduced his "brother" Travis Tritt. With the Fabulous Superlatives backing them, Travis and Marty sang "This One's Gonna Hurt You," and "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore." Travis did his version of "I Walk the Line," and "Anymore." Marty suggested they do "Let it Roll" and then sang along with "Here's a Quarter." These two obviously have a blast performing together and spent as much time laughing as they did singing.

Marty sat on the steps and chatted with the audience for awhile. He talked about MusiCares, the organization that benefits from the proceeds of the Late Night Jam each year and how they provide financial assistance to musicians in need. Two of the performers scheduled to be on the show had to cancel due to death in their families and Marty sent his condolences out to them. He responded to a couple of audience comments and thanked us again for staying up late and coming to the Jam.

Don Chambers and Goat is a popular Athens, Georgia-based band. I can't remember the names of any of the songs they performed, but the music had a folksy, rootsy, Americana feel and I really enjoyed the group. Marty joined the band onstage and played mandolin during their last song.

After a mandolin instrumental from Marty, Jim Block, percussionist and drummer for Kathy Mattea, captivated the audience with some beautiful music. Marty then introduced Kathy, who is one of my all time favorites. She started with a song called "Live It," then did a sort of new age version of "Come From the Heart." "Gimme' Shelter" was next, then Kathy brought out Odessa Settles and the Settles Connection for a wonderful version of "Wade in the Water," which Marty joined in on. I would have loved to hear more from Kathy. Like Marty, today's country radio turned it's back on her when she chose to do the music that is true to her heart, but she has one of the best voices I've ever heard and is truly a beautiful person.

The Settles Connection remained onstage and did a hand clapping version of "Soldier in the Army of the Lord," followed by "Dig a Little Deeper in the Storehouse." A last minute replacement for the Fairfield Four, this acapella group got the late night crowd rocking and really made a joyful noise.

Marty brought out Debbie Carroll, director of MusiCares and presented her with a check for more than $19.000. Both she and Marty thanked the audience again for supporting MusiCares and coming to the Late Night Jam. Marty, Kenny, Brian and Harry closed out the night with a magnificient version of "The Unseen Hand." You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as they completed the song.

The meet and greet took place in the upper lobby of the Ryman. Marty, Connie and the Fabulous Superlatives were laughing and having fun with the fans, despite the late hour. Even Kenny came out from behind the table to pose for pictures in his flashy jacket. The lobby was packed with people wanting autographs, handshakes and pictures, but with the Ryman staff urging people to keep moving, the line went fairly quickly. It was almost 3:30 a.m. when the last photo and CD were signed and we all went out into the warm Nashville night, already looking forward to next year's Late Night Jam.

Review by Judy Simonton, Lawrenceville, GA

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