For Love And Country

This appeared on - September 5, 2011

It sounds like a novel by David Foster Wallace or some other slightly off-kilter genius - a novel that would have been panned for being too far out. A kid from 1960s Mississippi becomes a mandolin prodigy and starts working for a major star at age 13. His first crush is on the prettiest, most golden throated gal singer of her era. Her first big hit lands when he's six years old, and he admires her from afar like every other fan. Time passes. Both become great country music artists. Their worlds converge. They collaborate. They flirt. They marry.

And yet the story is true. Following the careers of Marty Stuart and Connie Smith is like discovering a new wing of your family - a cool aunt and uncle who are constantly turning up with exotic gifts. They're preternaturally stylish, and the music is consistently amazing. When Marty married Connie in 1997, it made a new unbroken circle around the heart of country music.

This week, Music City Roots is proud to present this commanding couple of country, along with a musician who's become very important to their sound and flair, Kenny Vaughan. It's hillbilly music served three ways, in a special show that will offer extended sets, where each artist will be featuring material from wonderful new or newish albums.

Marty Stuart's Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) came out a year ago, though it feels like yesterday. A born stylist, Stuart doesn't just make albums for album's sake. His records have a story behind them, and this one marked a return to the room where Marty played his first session as a teen working with Lester Flatt. Not only that, it happened to be the most storied studio in Nashville history - a room that will reverberate with echoes of greatness as long as it stands. Stuart brought a bag of hearty, bluesy twangy songs and set his band loose in an all-in-one room, old-school session. He tapped a few special friends like steel great Ralph Mooney to touch the project with his magic metal bar. It was a continuation of Marty's life-long commitment to deep country music, but really one of his greatest as well.

Connie Smith's album is also a return, but a more fundamental one, because she hadn't made a new solo album in quite some time. Anyone who sees her in her regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry or on Marty's show on RFD-TV can testify that this greatest of country music voices has never sounded finer. The gifted young woman who stunned the world with "Once A Day" in the mid 60s now projects the nuances and character that only a fully-lived life can impart. And all this is captured on a brand new CD Long Line of Heartaches. No serious fan of country music should be without this amazing record, and we're thrilled to feature Connie and her band The Sundowners on the Roots stage.

Opening our show will be a band fronted by a fellow who has carved out a truly unique niche in Music City and in country music. Kenny Vaughan grew up in Denver and played country and punk rock in his teens. When an opportunity drew him to Nashville, he felt a kinship and stayed. That was the late 80s, so now he's a Music City veteran - a figure who pops up on stages everywhere, and who seems to never work with anyone who's not extraordinary. His current high-profile job is with Marty's Fabulous Superlatives, where his lanky frame looks great in high-end western wear and his spidery fingers spin webs of sharp, blues-drenched guitar filigree. His new album V is long-anticipated showcase for Kenny as bandleader, singer and lead picker.

It's truly one of our most anticipated shows of the season and a showcase for all that's good and true about country music.

Craig H

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

One of country's most historically minded new traditionalists, Marty Stuart was also one of the most eclectic, moving between honky tonk, rockabilly, country-rock, traditional country, and bluegrass. Marty Stuart has shown a showman's zest for every conceivable flavor of country music. Not to mention, a missionary's zeal for bringing the importance of the music and its themes home to long-time fans and newcomers alike.

Connie Smith & The Sundowners

Connie Smith still possesses one of the most powerful, agile and recognizable voices in country music. Her exposure to audiences via recordings has been very much an on-and-off affair, but she has maintained a presence through her regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, of which she has been a member since 1971.

Kenny Vaughan

Nashville guitarist, Kenny Vaughan is at the top of the "A" list among studio and road players on the country music studio scene. Vaughan maintains that he's not a great pure guitarist. He's even called himself a garage rocker masquerading as a professional. But those who've hired him know better. When it's time to solo, he can shred, in the guitar player's parlance, but his greatest asset may be his musicality, his restraint, his respect for the lyrics, and his service to the song.

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