Stuart, Tritt Share Chemistry With Adoring Troy Hall Fans

This appeared in the Schenectady Daily Gazette - November 17, 2008

Onstage at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, waiting for country stars Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart on Sunday, stood two chrome-legged barstools that could have come from Tootsie’s, the celebrated Nashville honky-tonk out the back door of the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry.

At soundcheck, Stuart said the Hall reminded him of the Ryman: “I know just where to aim my mandolin to bounce the sound off the wall,” he said. They knew just where to aim their music, too — matching their fans’ expectations for hits, but also paying tribute to Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard in a warmly satisfying singer-songwriter show.

Emerging from opposite ends of backstage, both mostly in black, they hugged, climbed on the stools and went to work. “Pickin’ At It” got them up to tempo, a ripping instrumental in the two-acoustic-guitars format they used except when Stuart grabbed his mandolin.

Tritt took the first vocal, a languid “Come and Go Blues,” then Stuart took over to proclaim “Now That’s Country.” They harmonized for the first time in “I’m the Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised,” but the spotlight soon shifted back to Tritt whose “Where the Corn Don’t Grow” extolled the rural life with the same conviction he brought later to a slam on the Country Music Association for failing to provide for its elders.

Credit where due

Tritt and Stuart certainly honored their forebears, joining forces in a Waylon tribute that began with “Hank Done It” and wandered a bit before they closed their opening segment together with a dynamite one-two of “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For a Long, Long Time)” and “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.”

In his solo segment, after “Ghost Train,” Stuart went back to tribute mode with “Dark Bird,” written for Johnny Cash, then revved his mandolin in “Mandolin Rip,” like a train with the blues.

Tritt demanded, “How do you follow that?” as he took over alone. Not a problem: “Help Me Hold On” was a deep, poignant love song and after “Country Ain’t Country,” Stuart emerged from the wings, playing along with “Anymore,” even more plaintive than “Help.”

From there, they played playfully together, Stuart cruising on “Hillbilly Rock,” Tritt bellowing the kiss-off “Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares” and slowing down “I Walk the Line” to tremendous effect, sharing the lead with Stuart in “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang” and exulting in Stuart’s sharp guitar solo in “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.”

“It’s good when it’s good,” Tritt remarked, returning with Stuart for “Stoned at the Jukebox” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” — rocking, rousing encores that rewarded the crowd for its standing ovations.

Tritt dominated the pair’s second segment together, after short solo sets by both. He has the most hits and the biggest voice, a booming baritone. But Stuart’s powerful playing, obvious respect for Tritt and engaging ease with the audience provided indispensable chemistry and authenticity. These guys clearly loved making music together, and that connection really brought their fans into the mood.

By Michael Hochanadel

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