Live At The Ryman
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This is a really enjoyable Bluegrass Album. Marty Stuart was onstage with Bluegrass great Lester Flatts at age 13 and he is still going strong. One of the things I like about Bluegrass is that it reminds me of friends gathering to pick and sing and enjoy time together. And this album does exactly that. It is a group of friends picking and singing and having a great time while entertaining the listening audience. If you are a fan of Bluegrass, you will love this album.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album for what it is; a group of friends gathering together and providing some great music while having fun doing so. Back in 2003, Marty had just come off the road from his Electric Barnyard tour and was reminded about a Bluegrass show he had agreed to perform at the Ryman. He didn’t have time to put a big production together, but pulled in some heavy duty musicians like Stuart Duncan, Charlie Cushman and Uncle Josh Grace from Lester Flatt and Earl Scrugg’s old band. Combined with Marty’s band, The Fabulous Superlatives, it was a powerhouse of talent onstage. They put the entire show together the afternoon of the performance, scratching out the song list on a napkin and just going onstage and playing great music.
They performed to a standing room only crowd. The album was first recorded unbeknownst to Marty, and when he heard what the show actually sounded like, he decided it would make a great record. He was absolutely right! For something that was virtually a spur of the moment thing, it is a joy to listen to. They have captured the true live spirit of being onstage and having fun with it. From the opening “Orange Blossom Special,” winding through several musical standards to “Hillbilly Rock,” they have the easy banter and the fun with instrumentals that makes it a personal show. They threw in some classics like “Shuckin’ The Corn,” “The Great Speckled Bird” and “Walk Like That.” There is some serious fun with the song “Sure Wanna Keep My Wine.”
By Jolene Downs
|February 7, 2006|
The ultra-cool cowboy singer takes listeners on a trip to country music's hallowed Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, on this concert set. The 47-year-old vocalist mixes up the song list, including both familiar country favorites such as "The Great Speckled Bird" and "Orange Blossom Special" as well as his own hits such as "Hillbilly Rock."
By Jim Harrington
After two killer, groundbreaking studio recordings in 2005 — Souls' Chapel and Badlands — about the last thing one would expect from Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives was a live bluegrass LP recorded at the historic Ryman Auditorium. To be accurate, Live at the Ryman was recorded in July of 2003. In addition to his regular band — which includes guitarist Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson on snare drum, and Brian Glenn on bass (all of whom sing) — guests that night are in the stratospheric category: fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjo master Charlie Cushman, and pioneering dobro boss Uncle Josh Graves. According to Stuart's liner notes, there was a 20-minute rehearsal before the gig to agree on tunes to play. That was it.. If he's not jiving, this is an even more astonishing record than its sound and contents give up. The set opens with a rollicking "Orange Blossom Special," with Duncan literally tearing up the middle, improvising on the theme with reckless abandon. Stuart then throws a curveball, letting his mandolin dig deep into the blues and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" riff on "No Hard Times." It slows down a bit for the wonderful old hillbilly blues tune "Homesick," with killer vocal harmonies. "Shuckin' the Corn" is a vehicle for Charlie Cushman, who tears it up from the inside and quotes "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" as Duncan kicks into high gear with a solo and Cushman comes back right at him turning the mode inside out. There is no stopping this band, who follow the twists and turns of the tune like jazzmen. Honky Tonk gets a nod here as well with "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore," though done in proper bluegrass fashion — Jimmy Martin would be proud of the treatment of this tune. The read of "Train 45" has Josh Graves' signature technique all over it, and his sense of humor, as well. When it all comes to a romping close with Stuart's own "Hillbilly Rock, done in hardcore bluegrass fashion that unearths the true roots of the savage rockabilly played by Johnny Burnette, Gene Vincent, and Elvis in his earliest incarnation. Something special has happened in that these musicians have brought everything from the Mississippi Delta to the Carter Family to the Monroe Brothers and the Stanley Brothers to rock and roll out in rough-and-tumble display from the heart of mountain music. This one smokes.
By Thom Jurek
Acoustic interplay generates an electric charge as guest musicians join Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives for a concert that puts the pedal to the metal of bluegrass tradition. The hometown crowd at Nashville's Mother Church of Country Music (the same stage on which a 13-year-old Stuart made his Ryman debut accompanying Lester Flatt on the mandolin) spurs the band to peak intensity. With stellar support from fiddler Stuart Duncan and banjoist Charlie Cushman--and a guest appearance by master Dobroist Josh Graves--Stuart and band explore and extend the dynamics of bluegrass, from familiar fare such as "Orange Blossom Special" and "The Great Speckled Bird" through the harmony-laden balladry of "Homesick" and the honky-tonk heartbreak of "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore" and "Hillbilly Rock," with the latter providing the closing kick to a particularly lively evening.
By Don McLeese
|March 17, 2006|
Famed Nashville disc jockey Eddie Stubbs nails it when he introduces Marty Stuart as "country music's Renaissance man" at the start of Live at the Ryman. Equally at home with country, gospel, rock, and bluegrass, Stuart is one of the best ambassadors country music has ever produced. While this is a bluegrass set, recorded in front of a sold-out Mother Church in July 2003, "or our version of bluegrass" as Marty calls it, Ryman presents his deep love for the music, where it's been, and what it can be. With his Fabulous Superlatives – guitarist Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson on snare drum, and bass player Brian Glenn – and guests – fiddler extraordinaire Stuart Duncan, the masterful Charlie Cushman on banjo, and pioneering Dobro player Uncle Josh Graves – Stuart charges through a set of tunes both traditional and original with uncommon zeal. "Orange Blossom Special" and "The Great Speckled Bird" meet "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore" and "Hillbilly Rock" and the results aren't quite a renaissance, but rather what sounds like a night that was especially electric, even though only acoustic instruments were involved. [3 stars]
By Jim Caligiuri
In July 2003, in the midst of a crushing tour schedule, Marty Stuart put on a bluegrass show at the legendary Ryman Auditorium, and unbeknownst to him, the tapes were rolling. Fast-forward to February 2006, when the release of this knockout performance arrives, closely tailing Stuart's pair of 2005 releases (his moving gospel outing, Souls' Chapel, and his stirring tribute to the Lakota Sioux, Badlands). Playing "our version of bluegrass," Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives draw mostly from the venerable canon but also take time to retool a couple of his country classics in a way that would surely draw a smile from Mr. Bill Monroe, were he still with us. Heartbreakers, toe-tappers, and barnburners are present and accounted for, and the depth of feeling everyone brings to their moment in the spotlight is really something. Check out the old standard "Shuckin' the Corn" with its incendiary dialogue between Stuart on mandolin, fiddler Stuart Duncan, and banjo man Charlie Cushman, who tears off some speed-picked runs worthy of the young Earl Scruggs. "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore," a duet hit for Marty and Travis Tritt, is here transfigured into a loping, mid-tempo acoustic drinkin' song ascending on high harmony. The set closes with Stuart's "Hillbilly Rock" -- which is set up by Superlative guitarist Kenny Vaughan's cool boogie-woogie original, "Walk Like That" -- remade as a frantic breakdown with pronounced locomotive overtones and sparked by red-hot solos on mandolin (Marty) and banjo (Cushman). The set gains extra ballast when dobro master Josh Graves joins the band onstage, adding a plaintive cry to "Train 45," moaning atmospherics to "Great Speckled Bird," and some bopping commentary to "Sure Wanna Keep My Wine." What a night to be at the Ryman.
By David McGee
|It's been a number of
years since I caught Marty Stuart live at a bluegrass
festival at the Frontier Ranch near Columbus, Ohio. At
the time, I thought his show was a little too country
with its electric guitars and drums, but he was still
very well received by the large crowd in attendance.
This live bluegrass album is a very welcome acoustic
treat that takes the consummate entertainer back to his
professional bluegrass roots that first began after he
heard Bill Monroe & The Sullivan Family at the
National Guard Armory in Jackson, Alabama in 1970. By
1972 (at age 13), the Mississippi native was playing
mandolin and lead guitar with Lester Flatt & the
Nashville Grass. Lester affectionately called him
"Little Marty Stuart." After seven years with Lester, he
spent six with Johnny Cash. Marty's also worked with Bob
Dylan, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl
Jackson, The Sullivan Family, Travis Tritt and many
Since joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1992, you might catch Marty with his own band, with "The Opry Bluegrass Band" (with Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill & Earl Scruggs), or with the old-time "Tennessee Mafia Jug Band." The versatile Stuart has found his niche on Hillbilly Rock Road that traverses both bluegrass and country territory. On this album, his signature "Hillbilly Rock" closes the set that took place on July 24, 2003 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Marty had just finished touring the nation with his "Electric Barnyard Tour," and he'd somewhat forgotten that he'd agreed to doing a bluegrass show at the Ryman. No matter because fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjo-player Charlie Cushman, dobro-player Josh Graves, and emcee Eddie Stubbs were only a few phone calls away and more than willing to join Marty's Fabulous Superlatives with Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Harry Stinson (snare drum), and Brian Glenn (bass). Marty admits to not having the time to rehearse much or get serious about anything so the group agreed to pick and sing "marquee level songs with a built in fun factor." It wasn't planned for the sold-out concert to be recorded, but after the fact Marty felt that it was magical from the first note to the last. Thus, it was decided to share it with us on CD. Maybe that's why Live at the Ryman follows so closely after his Soul's Chapel and Badlands album releases since the summer of 2005.
Live at the Ryman conveys a great deal of bluegrass spirit and drive. Often, the very best 'grass is played in jam sessions, and these Nashville cats knew exactly how to light the fire. That's where chutzpah kicks in. Marty was clearly in charge, directing the arrangements, and encouraging his sidekicks. The real treat is in hearing the individual instrumentalists tear up standards and impart their own personalities to the likes of Orange Blossom Special, John Henry, Shuckin' the Corn, Train 45, and The Great Speckled Bird. Some of Stuart's hits such as "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore" and "Hillbilly Rock" are given hard-drivin' bluegrass treatment. Great pickers also know how to impart drive to slower-tempo'ed tune, and mandolin players should really enjoy Marty's licks on "No Hard Times Blues." I was surprised that the liner notes don't credit Marty with any vocals. The notes are remiss in not acknowledging songwriters. A few little things aside, Live at the Ryman is a sturdy, confident project with raw energy and brash attitude. Marty and his buds keep the bluegrass coming at full throttle. Kudos to Les Banks for a fine job with recording this show.
By Joe Ross
|April 16, 2009|
It’s been a number of years since I caught Marty Stuart live at a bluegrass festival at the Frontier Ranch near Columbus, Ohio. At the time, I thought his show was a little too country with its electric guitars and drums, but he was still very well received by the large crowd in attendance. This live bluegrass album is a very welcome acoustic treat that takes the consummate entertainer back to his professional bluegrass roots that first began after he heard Bill Monroe & The Sullivan Family at the Natl. Guard Armory in Jackson, Alabama in 1970. By 1972 (at age 13), the Mississippi native was playing mandolin and lead guitar with Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass. Lester affectionately called him “Little Marty Stuart.” After seven years with Lester, he spent six with Johnny Cash. Marty’s also worked with Bob Dylan, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Jackson, The Sullivan Family, Travis Tritt and many others.
Since joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1992, you might catch Marty with his own band, with “The Opry Bluegrass Band” (with Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill & Earl Scruggs), or with the old-time “Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.” The versatile Stuart has found his niche on Hillbilly Rock Road that traverses both bluegrass and country territory. On this album, his signature “Hillbilly Rock” closes the set that took place on July 24, 2003 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Marty had just finished touring the nation with his Electric Barnyard Tour, and he’d somewhat forgotten that he’d agreed to doing a bluegrass show at the Ryman. No matter because fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjo-player Charlie Cushman, dobro-player Josh Graves, and emcee Eddie Stubbs were only a few phone calls away and more than willing to join Marty’s Fabulous Superlatives with Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Harry Stinson (snare drum), and Brian Glenn (bass). Marty admits to not having the time to rehearse much or get serious about anything so the group agreed to pick and sing “marquee level songs with a built in fun factor.” It wasn’t planned for the sold-out concert to be recorded, but after the fact Marty felt that it was magical from the first note to the last. Thus, it was decided to share it with us on CD. Maybe that’s why Live at the Ryman follows so closely after his Souls' Chapel and Badlands album releases since the summer of 2005.
Live at the Ryman conveys a great deal of bluegrass spirit and drive. Often, the very best ‘grass is played in jam sessions, and these Nashville cats knew exactly how to light the fire. That’s where chutzpah kicks in. Marty was clearly in charge, directing the arrangements, and encouraging his sidekicks. The real treat is in hearing the individual instrumentalists tear up standards and impart their own personalities to the likes of "Orange Blossom Special," "John Henry," "Shuckin’ the Corn," "Train 45," and "The Great Speckled Bird." Some of Stuart’s hits such as "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore" and "Hillbilly Rock" are given hard-drivin’ bluegrass treatment. Great pickers also know how to impart drive to slower-tempo’ed tune, and mandolin players should really enjoy Marty’s licks on "No Hard Times Blues." I was surprised that the liner notes don’t credit Marty with any vocals. The notes are remiss in not acknowledging songwriters. A few little things aside, Live at the Ryman is a sturdy, confident project with raw energy and brash attitude. Marty and his buds keep the bluegrass coming at full throttle. Kudos to Les Banks for a fine job with recording this show.
By Joe Ross
Recorded at the historic home of country music, this vibrant, upbeat set features the veteran country performer Marty Stuart and his crack bluegrass band playing a varied set of traditional favorites such as "The Great Speckled Bird," blistering instrumentals such as "Train 45" and "Shuckin' The Corn," as well as one of Stuart's biggest hits, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore," to an appreciative audience. Stuart is in fine voice throughout the high-quality performance and the warm rapport between musicians and crowd makes this Grammy-nominated album a worthy addition to the Stuart canon.
|February 7, 2006|
Sometimes the best things happen when you're not paying attention. Such is the case with Live at the Ryman, the spectacular new live album from Marty Stuart. Booked into country music’s mother church for a special concert, Stuart summoned his skillet-hot band, the Fabulous Superlatives (guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bassist Brian Glenn and drummer Harry Stinson) for what was sure to be one hell of a gig. But it was Stuart’s decision to introduce dobro legend 'Uncle' Josh Graves, Charlie Cushman on banjo and Stuart Duncan on fiddle into the mix that sent this night into the country/ bluegrass stratosphere.
This is not your typical greatest-hits-with-background-noise package. For one thing, there's only a couple of Marty Stuart's chart-toppers here and they sound vastly different from the versions you're familiar with. Stuart's always been eclectic in his musical stylings, but he started out as a 13-year-old prodigy playing mandolin with Lester Flatt's band. And this album is an attempt to get back to those roots.
So we get to hear Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives (and guest star Uncle Josh Graves, the King of the Dobro) doing bluegrassy versions of old-time classics like "John Henry" and "Orange Blossom Special" as well as bluegrassy versions of gospel tunes like "Great Speckled Bird" and even bluegrassy versions of Stuart's hits "Hillbilly Rock" and "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore."
The legendary acoustics at the Ryman are as sweet as ever, and the Superlatives definitely make the most of them. But how much you enjoy this album will depend on how well you understand that Marty Stuart is always going to do exactly what he wants to do, and what he wants to do here is bluegrass.
By Robert Loy
|February 27, 2006|
|Before Marty became a
country star, he was a bluegrass picker -- he made his
Nashville debut at the historic Ryman Auditorium at age
13, playing mandolin behind the legendary Lester Flatt.
Recorded in July 2003, this off-the-cuff live album
stands as a rededication to the joyous, spontaneous,
virtuosic music that first earned him a place in the
For Live at the Ryman,
Marty augments his ace Fabulous Superlatives with a
trio of high-level bluegrassers: fiddler Stuart
Duncan, banjo player Charlie Cushman and Dobro master
Uncle Josh Graves, to whom Marty regularly redirects
the spotlight. This ad hoc, barely rehearsed
supergroup charges confidently through bluegrass and
country standards, a couple of rockabilly numbers and
acoustic recastings of Marty's 1990s hits "The Whiskey
Ain't Workin' Anymore" and "Hillbilly Rock." Following
August's glowing gospel CD Souls' Chapel and
October's Native American song cycle Badlands,
Live at the Ryman completes a trilogy of
deeply felt, highly personal labors of love from an
American master. [3-1/2 stars]
By Chris Neal
|February 12, 2006|
Stuart adds to his reputation as a worthy keeper of country music's legacy with this outing, a live album made from a bootleg recording of a bluegrass show he played in 2003 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.
Backed by revered guest instrumentalists Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Charlie Cushman (banjo) and Uncle Josh Graves (Dobro), Stuart and his band smoke their way through everything from chestnuts like "Orange Blossom Special" and "Shuckin' the Corn" to Jimmie Rodgers' "No Hard Times" to bluegrass treatments of Stuart hits "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore" and "Hillbilly Rock." (The latter becomes a frenzied barn burner that's light-years removed from the artist's 1989 original.)
The picking is first-rate, the between-tunes banter is corny, and the end result is delightfully unvarnished and spontaneous.
By Greg Crawford
After a classic Ryman introduction hailing Marty Stuart as "one of [country music's] greatest treasures," Marty and his band kick it into fifth gear for a set of high steppin', hard-stompin' bluegrass music. Anyone who knows Marty's history knows that he was playing mandolin with Flatt and Scruggs when he was just a wee sprite age 13, so it's no real surprise to finally get a bluegrass set from the man who's keeping real country music alive in Nashville.
Marty churns out a hot set of 'grass, from the traditional "Orange Blossom Special" and "No Hard Times Blues" to reworkings of some of his personal best, such as "Hillbilly Rock" and "The Whiskey Ain't Working Anymore"… which, consequently, is far superior without Travis Tritt singing along. Stuart is joined on stage by some very special guests in addition to his fine band, The Fabulous Superlatives - featuring the indomitable hometown hero Kenny Vaughan on guitar, Harry Stinson on drums and Brian Glenn on bass guitar. Charlie Cushman joins in on banjo, while the now-legendary Stuart Duncan lends his fiddle talents to the show, and the unstoppable "Uncle" Josh Graves turns up to play some amazing Dobro guitar. Of course, Marty himself spends the show wailing away on his Gibson mandolin.
There are no real highlights to point out, as the entire set is blistering and soulful. But when Charlie Cushman stands front and center for "Shuckin' The Corn", it may as well be Earl Scruggs slamming away on that banjo. And when "Uncle" Josh takes center stage for "Train 45," shivers run up and down my spine… his gravelly voice is backwoods perfection and his Dobro playing is simply without equal… The man can draw forth such soul from the strings. The band hits an old-time rock'n'roll stride on "Walk Like That," featuring a ripping Marty Stuart mandolin solo, before finishing up with the now-classic "Hillbilly Rock"… a song that is every bit as strong as a bluegrass tune as it is a rockin' rockabilly track.
Live At The Ryman is another notch in the belt of one of the modern world's greatest country legends, as well as a fine tribute to where the man himself came from. The album is full of blissfully great playing, as well as being a modern compendium of bluegrass greats and their contributions to the art. Modern country music would have a whole lot of nothing without Marty Stuart, and here's another reason why.
By Embo Blake
|February 15, 2006|
On the third release on his own Superlatone imprint, Marty Stuart maintains the standard of excellence with this live bluegrass workout. The liner notes say he was unaware the show was being recorded, which likely contributes to these free-wheeling performances. Stuart`s own mandolin and his killer Superlatones are joined by Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Charlie Cushman on banjo and Josh Graves on dobro as they work without a net on a wild "Orange Blossom Special," a swingin' "No Hard Times" and a reverent "The Great Speckled Bird." Reworkings of Stuart country gems like "The Whiskey Ain`t Workin' Anymore" and a sizzling "Hillbilly Rock" fit nicely alongside chestnuts like "Shuckin' the Corn" and "Sure Wanna Keep My Wine."
Stuart is on a hell of a roll.
|February 9, 2006|
Marty Stuart continues his string of exceptional discs this week with the release of Live at the Ryman (Universal South). This set, which contains material from a 2003 date, highlights the charisma and energy of Stuart and his band the Fabulous Superlatives during an explosive concert that covers every area of the Stuart repertoire from classic country and bluegrass to heartache ballads, honky-tonk and rock-tinged material.
There were also some very special guests on board, most notably Dobro master Josh Graves. While maintaining a breakneck pace that would be right at home in any context, Stuart and the Superlatives never strayed from the country/bluegrass path thematically, in the process delivering some tremendous performances that are nicely documented on Live At The Ryman.
By Ron Wynn
|February 5, 2006|
Marty Stuart is Nashville's Renaissance Man -- a master picker, songwriter, producer and entertainer -- whose career has crossed the boundaries of bluegrass, country, gospel and rock.
In stores Tuesday, Live at the Ryman (Superlatone) finds Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives at Ryman Auditorium, the storied Nashville venue where he began his career as a 13-year-old member of bluegrass legend Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass.
The band hits the stage with a wide open "Orange Blossom Special," serving notice that on this July night in 2003, Stuart is wearing his bluegrass hat. And as he and his fellow pickers lay into the warhorse, the message is clear: Bluegrass is where his heart is.
With help from Charlie Cushman (banjo), Stuart Duncan (fiddle) and Harry Stinson (snare drum), the show features the classic "Shuckin' the Corn" and Jimmie Rodgers' "No Hard Times." "Uncle Josh" Graves, the former Flatt and Scruggs Dobro player, guests with an old school version of "Train 45" and a melodic interpretation of the late Roy Acuff's Grand Ole Opry favorite "The Great Speckled Bird."
Stuart reconfigures "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore," his Grammy-winning country duet with Travis Tritt, and his signature song, "Hillbilly Rock," and he reveals his bluesy side with Graves' "Sure Wanna Keep My Wine" and bandmate Kenny Vaughan's "Walk Like That."
Stuart had only a week to prepare the show and was unaware that it was being taped, which explains why Live at the Ryman lacks the precision of a studio recording. But what it lacks in polish it more than makes up for in spirit at the "mother church" of country and bluegrass. [3-1/2 stars]
By Jack Bernhardt
|March 3, 2006|
Although Marty Stuart has flirted with the fickle affections of country radio, he has really found his calling as a traditionalist with an innovative streak.
And a work ethic, too. Not content to have released two of last year's most inspired studio albums in the country realm (Soul's Chapel and Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota), Stuart and his band are back with this live bluegrass collection.
About that band? He calls the core rhythm section -- guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and bassist Brian Glenn -- the Fabulous Superlatives: That would also apply to banjoist Charlie Cushman, fiddler Stuart Duncan and Dobro player Josh Graves.
Stuart somewhat modestly tells the Ryman audience that the band is doing bluegrass, "or our version of bluegrass.''
That version might be stylized at points, inflected with barely perceptible echoes of jazz or rock technique, but it's a rich, heartfelt adaptation.
There's a dash of Chuck Berry in the rambunctious solos on Jimmie Rodgers' "No Hard Times Blues,'' but somehow it fits. Likewise, Stuart's own "Hillbilly Rock,'' an otherwise obligatory closing hit, dovetails seamlessly as a reincarnation with fiddles and banjos.
In between, the band keeps its footing on weepers ("Homesick''), traditional ballads ("Mr. John Henry, the Steel Drivin' Man'') and wacky instrumentals ("The Great Speckled Bird'') with enough style to distill old and new into something that's the best of both. [4 out of 5 stars]
By Jim Abbott
|June 27, 2006|
Marty Stuart hits the hat trick with Live at the Ryman, his third CD release in the past 12 months or so, each totally different in genre and intent.
Soul's Chapel offered a program of Southern and country gospel; Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota, was a country rock tribute to the Lakota people, written by Stuart and informed by his close ties to the tribe; and now Live at the Ryman is a return to Stuart's roots as a teenage bluegrass mandolin prodigy playing with the Lester Flatt band.
It was recorded in July 2003 with his ace band, the Fabulous Superlatives, plus guests at the legendary home of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. And it's remarkable as much for how it came together as for its sound.
Stuart writes in the liner notes that he and his band had just come off the road with Merle Haggard and had forgotten about the Ryman show he'd agreed to do a year earlier. So he called in fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjo man Charlie Cushman and dobro master Uncle Josh Graves to augment himself on mandolin, Kenny Vaughan on guitar, Harry Stinson on drums and Brian Glenn on bass - all of whom also sing.
They met at the Ryman and rehearsed for 20 minutes before the show. Later, on the way out, a Ryman staffer handed Stuart a CD and suggested he listen to it sometime. Stuart had no idea the show was being recorded.
So we hear what Stuart heard: a virtuoso program of country and bluegrass, much of it necessarily familiar, played with back-porch spirit and exquisitely sung, complete with song intros, stage patter and a corny joke from Uncle Josh.
The CD kicks off with a hot Duncan solo on "Orange Blossom Special," Stuart's mandolin bringing Chuck Berry into "No Hard Times Blues" and the magnificent, multipart harmony of "Homesick." Along the way from "Shuckin' the Corn" to "The Great Speckled Bird," Stuart makes a couple of stops at his '80s mainstream country catalog, reinterpreting his duet with Travis Tritt, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore," and closing with a traditional bluegrass take on his rockabilly tribute "Hillbilly Rock."
By Barry Gilbert
Neobilly Nashville twangster Marty Stuart cements his creative rebirth with this solid live set, the third in a recently released trio of albums that may surprise even his harshest critics... Here, in concert at the Ryman Auditorium, he leans heavily on his bluegrass background, keeping it all acoustic and whooping it up in a display of gosh-heck rootsiness worthy of Ricky Skaggs. Stuart and his band really sound like they're having fun, and the material is all pretty solid, including both traditional tunes such as "The Great Speckled Bird," and plucky remakes of his old chart hits, such as "Hillbilly Rock." Marty also cuts a wide swath for dobro legend Josh Graves, giving him center stage for most of the album's middle section. It's a puckish, rambunctious performance, one that'll get your toes tapping and -- like his other two new albums -- set your mind to wondering, what the heck has Marty been doing these last few years? Why'd it take him so long to get all good again? Worth checking out.
By Joe Sixpack
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