Rant 'N' Roll: The Real Deal

This appeared in The Aquarian Weekly - March 11, 2015

Hank Williams never heard rock ‘n’ roll but Marty Stuart sure did. Seeing Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives at The Sellersville Theater was like seeing Hank before they kicked him off the Grand Ole Opry stage for being drunk. History. Something I’ll tell my grandchildren about. He’s a larger-than-life character straight out of a Zane Grey western. And when he goes bat-chuck wild on guitar or mandolin like Jeff Beck crossed with Jimmy Page, it’s mesmerizing.

At 13, he was already on the road with the legendary Lester Flatt [1914-1979], a string-genius by his early 20s, he was with Johnny Cash, married one of his daughters, before playing with Bill Monroe, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. By 21, he was solo, and now, at 56, he stands supreme as living proof of authentic country music, not that crap the public is spoonfed on radio and TV.

“Oh, I really don’t like country,” said my +1 prior to the show. Suffice it to say, Marty Stuart has a new fan.

With perfect two- and three-part harmonies flying through the air, The Fabulous Superlatives are aptly named. Instrumentally, they’re perfecto. Kenny Vaughan is known around Nashville as GuiTarzan. He’s another post-rock ‘n’ roll musician who takes the drama of rock and incorporates it into his stunning dexterity. When Stuart and Vaughan solo simultaneously, it’s not unlike Clapton and Bruce going at it in Cream. Drummer Harry Stinson—after laying down the beat for Peter Frampton and Etta James—could opt out of this band to be his own man as a singer/songwriter/producer. But no. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Martin is also content to forego personal glory just to play bass.

This quartet will blow you away.

It’s a time machine trip back to when country music was gritty and real, but from guys who love to rock…or swing…or bop. Visually stunning, with a sense of solid show biz, they keep it moving. Stuart must be a tough taskmaster (hopefully, he’s not a sadistic prick like James Brown, Van Morrison or Ian Anderson), because when Vaughan proved he’s human by flubbing an intro, Stuart threw him under the bus by saying, “We suck.”

Truth is, they hardly suck. They rule. Period. I defy anyone who claims to not like country music not to like Marty Stuart. Take the test. Listen to “The Whiskey Ain’t Working,” “Tempted” or “Hillbilly Rock.” Plus, Stuart’s an Americana Professor of historical proportions. He knows and cherishes the deep strains of gospel, bluegrass, back porch Appalachia and folk music that intertwines with country like tributaries headed for the big river. He’s been documenting it all through the lens of his camera for decades to the point of having public exhibitions of his photos. His private collection of country music artifacts is estimated to be worth a fortune.

The Sellersville Theater is like an oasis of pure spring water in the middle of the desert that is Route #309 on the way to Philly. It’s attached to The Washington House restaurant where they let you walk outside with your alcohol to take it into the show. Just make sure to walk on the little walkway which connects the two venues because, yeah, it’s illegal to walk on the sidewalk or in the street with booze. Like New Orleans, brother! How cool is that? The sound is sterling. Stuart a team player, loves to be part of a band, and, as such, is always introducing other talent. Last time through these parts, he had Roger McGuinn of The Byrds with him. This time, he presented Sam Lewis as his opening act. “This guy better be good,” I thought. Sam Lewis, a hot Nashville composer, blew me away.

By Mike Greenblatt

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