Marty Stuart Charms Crowd With Music, Jokes, Warm Tales

This appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - August 24, 2008

Sparkle and twang - plus pickin’ and grinnin’ - made for a lively show by Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives on Saturday night at the Old State House in Little Rock.

With his own personal collection of country music memorabilia on display nearby in Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart’s American Musical Odyssey, Stuart wowed a sold-out crowd - albeit a packed house of only 250 joyous fans - with a show that could also be described as an American musical odyssey. Mixing his great mandolin playing with occasional guitar picking and a lot of singing, plus stories that varied from hilarious to touching, Stuart seemed to be having the time of his life.

Early on, Stuart informed the crowd that famed Arkansas country singer Maxine Brown was in the room. And he periodically made her the subject of some gentle kidding. He happily shared the spotlight with his band members - guitarist Kenny Vaughan, stand-up bassist Paul Martin and the angelic voiced drummer Harry Stinson - even letting them sing lead at times.

Interplay between the four men was great fun to behold as were their harmonies, with the backing trio dressed all in white and Stuart wearing black, to honor his former father-inlaw, Johnny Cash, who was naturally the story of several sweet tales.

Starting off with his first hit, “Hillbilly Rock,” Stuart interspersed songs and stories, with instrumentals getting almost as much attention as the vocals. A story about Bill Monroe led to a fiery bluegrass instrumental, “Rawhide,” and a story about Travis Tritt followed a version of a hit the two had together, “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.”

Other fine selections included “Tempted,” “My Babe,” “Body and Soul,” “The Story of Wounded Knee,” “Dark Bird,” “Workin’ on a Building” (which had so many toes a-tapping thatit sounded like a chorus of hammers) and a Jimmy Driftwood classic, “Tennessee Stud,” that followed a story on Driftwood in his bathtub.

Every show should end with the sort of stupendous encore that capped this one, a combination of a get-down bluegrass version of “It’s All Over Now,” which was the first American hit by The Rolling Stones, followed by an equally bluegrassy, yet rocked-up take on Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”

Even though Stuart’s fine show had to end, you can still catch the exhibit, which will be up through October 5 at the Old State House.

By Jack Hill

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