Marty Stuart And Connie Smith Bring Country Back To The Big Apple

This appeared on - February 20, 2014

On February 19, Grammy winner Marty Stuart and his wife, veteran country songstress Connie Smith, performed at the gorgeous Allen Room venue at Lincoln Center in New York City, as part of the "American Songbook" series.

"All right," Marty Stuart shouted as he took the stage with his band, the "Fabulous Superlatives" that consisted of Kenny Vaughan on guitar, Paul Martin on bass and vocals, Harry Stinson on drums and vocals.

Stuart opened the show with "Hillbilly Rick," as he backed himself on acoustic guitar and had the audience clapping along.

"Thank you. Good night," he joked. "It is such an honor to be playing here at this beautiful theater," Stuart added.

It was followed by "Orange Blossom Special," where he played the mandolin, as well as "Walk Like That," which featured his band member Kenny Vaughan on lead vocals.

"Thank you very much," Stuart said, and brought out his steel guitar player, Gary Carter, and he subsequently introduced the crowd to his wife, "Country Music Hall of Famer Connie Smith."

Smith belted out a soaring rendition of "Where Is My Castle," as Stuart backed her on acoustic guitar.

"Thank you very much," Smith told the audience. "We are so honored to be here tonight. I don't have a bad band," she further joked.

She noted that she is a fan of songwriter Dallas Frazier and that throughout her career, she has cut 71 of his songs, which included "Ain't Had No Lovin'" and "Run Away Little Tears," the latter of which she dubbed as one of her all-time favorite country ballads. She delivered a controlled and powerful version of "Run Away Little Tears," as the stage was graced in blue lights.

"Everything all right?" Stuart asked the crowd, and went on to sing lead vocals on the upbeat "Tempted."

"Farmer's Blues" is a tune that both artists (Stuart and Smith) co-wrote together in their kitchen. Smith sang lead and showcased the great tone of her voice, as well as her distinct yodeling ability.

Stuart continued with "Life Has Its Little Ups And Downs," and he declared his love and admiration for his wife. "I love Connie Smith," he told the New York audience. "She was my mom's favorite singer," he added, and noted that the follow-up song "I Met My Baby at the Choctaw Fair" was inspired by their first meeting.

Smith shared that she had fallen in love with the song "Ain't You Even Gonna Cry" the very first time that she heard it. She sang the tune as she was backed by acoustic and steel guitars.

Stuart remarked, "The beautiful city of Manhattan is the perfect backdrop for steel guitar," praising the Allen Room yet again.

Smith took an audience member's song request and sang a stunning version of the Bill Anderson-penned "I Never Once Stopped Loving You." It was followed by the instrumental "Last Date," which featured Gary Carter on steel guitar.

Stuart sang "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " as an audience sing-along and he had the crowd clapping. He shared that he first fell in love with country music at the young age of five years old.

Their elaborate stage consisted of various artifacts that belonged to some of the greatest entertainer in country music history, such as Johnny Cash's acoustic guitar, Jimmie Rodgers' briefcase (who was dubbed as the "Father of Country Music") and Hank Williams' T-shirt. Stuart had a good time doing a little "show and tell" for the crowd, who were in awe of all of these treasured souvenirs.

The Fabulous Superlatives and Stuart did a solid job singing the up-tempo "Bluegrass Express" and it was followed by "Dark Bird," his tribute song to the late but great Johnny Cash, which he played solo and on acoustic guitar. "Dark Bird" had a haunting vibe to it and it was well-received by the crowd.

He immediately broke into "Mandolin Rip," which he played solo, showcasing his prowess on mandolin.

"All right," he exclaimed, following its warm reception.

Smith returned to the stage and delivered a noteworthy cover of Martha Carson's gospel tune "Satisfied," as Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives serenaded the crowd to the country lullaby "Angels Rock Me To Sleep," displaying their rich, baritone vocals.

"Gospel music is an integral part of country music," said Smith. "Most of us learned to sing in church."

Smith went on to sing her highlight vocal of the evening, a powerhouse and emotional version of the gospel classic "How Great Thou Art," where she showcased her tremendous range and crystalline vocals. This vocal earned her a standing ovation.

"Thank you so much. We love you," Smith said.

They returned for an encore which consisted of Smith's signature song "Once A Day," which was yet another flawless vocal that displayed the control and power of her voice, as Stuart sang backing vocals. This performance subsequently earned them the second standing ovation of the evening.

"This song turns 50 years old this year," Smith said, proving that stellar country tunes of this caliber can stand the test of time.

Stuart concluded with a cover of Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream."

"We are so honored to be a part of the 'American Songbook' series," Stuart said, and he expressed his gratitude for all of the staff at Lincoln Center that made this event possible.

The Verdict

Overall, Marty Stuart and Connie Smith prove that they are still at the top of their game musically. Their vocals were captivating and timeless. Artists like Stuart and Smith come once in a lifetime. They encompass what country music is all about: heartfelt lyrics, raw emotions and sincere storytelling. They are both national treasures, and their concert at the Allen Room at Lincoln Center garnered an A+ rating.

By Markos Pepadatos

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