Marty Party Hearty

This review appeared on - November 6, 1997

Lordy, but that Marty can party.

The scene was a shoulder-to-shoulder country dance pit at Cowboys late Wednesday. Fully three generations of country music die-hards lined the walls, danced on tables and bobbed their grey heads. Grandmother and granddaughter swayed as the other man in black came on with a wave and a shout of "Oooooh, Edmonton girls,'' and mom was usually the one to watch out for. Get back on the floor, mom.

Leather pants, David Copperfield hair and a black shirt that looked at least 50 are all part of the retro cool that Stuart, also deeply rooted in three generations, handles with ease. This man can please.

"We have any hillbilly fans in the big old honky tonk tonight?'' Stuart shot out with an ironic smile, knowing he could have been singing Klingon opera and had them going. His 25 years behind the mandolin and guitar have seen him move from prodigy to legend, but never product. And his flirting with the "old tunes'' like Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee," "the redneck national anthem'' as he put it, were played with unusual passion and fire, given the decade.

"If you know it, sing along. If you don't, fake it!'' he sang, localizing half the lyrics, anyway.

Stuart broke a sweat after the third song, and ditties like his first duet with Travis Tritt, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' ", and "Hillbilly Rock" had the backup of a few hundred voices to fuel the machine.

"Touch me, turn me on and burn me down,'' he glided with song, elevated by his fans, later introducing the band as all being from Alberta. "And I'm from Edmonton,'' he teased, "my name is Marty Stuart!''

We lapped it up like thirsty kittens.

Standout songs were abundant. Like I said, there was something for everyone. Tempted saw his greatest connection with all the black hats, and the giant Cowboys cow skull was the perfect backdrop when he offered a tribute to his former mentor, Johnny Cash, near the end, as the women strutted confidently to the autograph booth. "Do me a favor and pray for Johnny Cash,'' he said, then went all the way back with a familiar boom-shukka-boom on "Don't Take Your Guns to Town."

Overall, most of the crowd liked his newer "This One's Gonna Hurt You"-"Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best" kind of music, but allusions to Conway Twitty, Cash and Lester Flatt, by sheer force of talent on the mandolin alone, rewarded the extra faithful.

In a very real way, all of popular country was wiggling its hips. Too bad if you missed it.

Julian Austin, by the way, is worth a mention as his opener. He seems much happier on a bar stage than in a soft-seat venue, and his performance was far more colorful than in the past.

This former outcast has found his new world and should be watched.

By Fish Griwkowski

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