Performing Arts - Marty Stuart

This appeared in The Washington Post - September 21, 2007

When a man in leather pants and a feathered mullet strides onto a stage adorned with lava lamps, it's usually a cue to bolt towards the nearest fire exit. Unless, of course, that man is Marty Stuart.

Sure, his sartorial taste is questionable, but the country vet's musical taste is anything but. Stuart charmed fans at the Birchmere on Wednesday, shimmying through a dynamic set of honky-tonk romps, feisty bluegrass standards, even a few plaintive ballads.

"Y'all make it feel like Friday during the middle of the week!" the 48-year-old singer announced after bopping through his own "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'." He's a fantastic entertainer, but shared the spotlight generously with His Fabulous Superlatives, a three-piece backing troupe worthy of its moniker. Guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and bassist Brian Glenn each took solo turns at the microphone and they launched into killer three-part harmony on "Workin' on a Building." Stuart's wife, the esteemed country singer Connie Smith, also made a cameo, joining hubby for the weepy "Long Black Limousine." On top of that: some Johnny Cash ballads and a stellar mandolin solo from Stuart that fused bluegrass and blues. What's next Marty, a disco tune?

Actually, yes. Glenn let the falsetto fly during a goofy bluegrass reading of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" -- a song Stuart wanted to test-drive for a forthcoming housewarming party at Barry Gibb's house. (For those saying "Huh?": Gibb purchased Johnny Cash's old home in Hendersonville, Tennessee in 2006, which now makes him Stuart's next-door neighbor).

The disco vamp wasn't the only time Stuart raised the ghosts of '77. The righteous dueling guitar licks he traded with Vaughan throughout the set evoked a vintage Television gig at CBGB. Country, bluegrass and blues, indeed.

By Chris Richards

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