Marty Stuart at The Bottom Line, New York, NY on June 18, 2003

This appeared in Variety on June 22, 2003

Marty Stuart is a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll. But unlike Donny and Marie, and countless alt-country wannabes, he manages to reconcile the two facets without compromising either.

Once upon a time -- in a song aired late in this one-off Gotham perf -- Stuart dubbed his work "Hillbilly Rock," a term that's both empowering and descriptive of his ability to present Bill Monroe and Neil Young as part of a single continuum.

Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives offered a stripped-down but still somewhat showbizzy version of their typical show, replete with fish-out-of-water-in-Gotham jokes and ZZ Top-styled guitar choreography. But as evidenced by an early one-two punch of "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " and "Too Much Month at the End of the Money," Stuart hasn't allowed shtick to subsume his hardscrabble approach.

Actually, hardscrabble approaches would be more fitting. Stuart and band bounced from pulsating rockabilly ("Burn Me Down") to hyperactive bluegrass (an amped-up "Rock Island Line").

In classic road-show manner, Stuart gave each of his bandmates a lead vocal turn. That slowed the momentum of the 90-minute set, as did some of his shaggy-dog stories, but he recovered with a passel of tricks that were designed to impress -- and did just that. Stuart harked back to his days with Flatt and Scruggs by breaking out the mandolin for some flashy playing and dipping into the Foggy Mountain songbook for a brace of old-timey tunes.

While Stuart and company offered up the wry "If There Ain't, There Oughta Be" and the mournful "Farmers' Blues" from the soon-to-be-released Sony album "Country Music," he didn't skimp on past favorites. Best received were the Orbison-styled "Tempted" and an encore rendition of "High on a Mountaintop."

Stuart and kindred spirits embark on their co-headlining "Electric Barnyard" tour -- taking in two dozen small markets -- on July 6.

By David Sprague

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