Eight Years After Forming, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives Play First Full Show In Nashville

This appeared on 9513.com - August 26, 2010

It’s hard to imagine that last night was the first time Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives performed a full show on a Nashville stage. After all, Stuart is one of those omniscient Nashville figures who could/will pop up anywhere in town. He hosts his own show on RFD-TV and frequents the Opry stage. He’s made a name for himself as a walking encyclopedia of all things country music–and if the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum ever shut down, his home could probably serve as a viable back-up.

However, Stuart and his Superlatives probably couldn’t have picked a better time–or place–for their Nashville debut (even if it was a whopping 8 years after their inception). Currently, he’s basking in critical praise for his just-released album, Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, and the intimate Belcourt Theatre was the perfect venue for him to showcase his latest work.

The lights cut out in the vintage theater, and when they flicked back on, there stood Stuart, his silver-mane and the Fabulous Superlatives already grooving into the opening bars of “Bridge Washed Out.” They kept the energy high with “Ghost Train Four-Oh-Ten,” and “Country Boy Rock and Roll.” On the latter tune, Stuart and guitar player Kenny Vaughan came close to eliciting an early standing ovation as they traded frantic, up-tempo licks.

Throughout the 90-minute show, Stuart and his Superlative juxtaposed gripping harmonies–like those on a poignant rendition of “Long Black Veil”–with playful banter on tunes like “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore.” Every person onstage, aside from pedal steel player Gary Carter (who was on loan from Connie Smith’s band), got a turn at the mic. Vaughan livened things up with a laid back “Country Music’s Got a Hold On Me” while bass player Paul Martin sang well on “Bluegrass Express.”

But one of the best moments of the evening came when all four Superlatives, including drummer Harry Stinson, performed a handful of gospel bluegrass tunes, including Bill Monroe’s “Working On A Building.” The technical chops–both playing and singing–were second to none. The ease with which they tackled a gamut of musical styles–yet never straying from the country thread–was truly remarkable.

Stuart’s father, John–who moved to Nashville to enable his teenage son’s musical aspiration–was in attendance. Marty told a story about how his father lost his job as a factory worker at age 52. Then, he dedicated the uncomfortably real-life “Hard Working Man” to his father. A stunning tribute.

After leaving the stage prematurely, Stuart and the Superlatives returned for an encore that included “Branded,” “Little Heartbreaker,” Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream” and “Porter Wagoner’s Grave.” As if an hour and a half of life stories, instrumental genius, and pure country music wasn’t enough, the crowd clamored for more. Stuart obliged, ending the night by dissecting the mandolin on one final instrumental.

As the crowd slowly filed out, an older gentleman remarked: “It better not be another 10 years ’til the next time, damn it.”

By Pierce Greenberg

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