The Weekend in review: Oblivian, Stuart and fingertips
|This appeared in the Arkansas Times - August 25, 2008|
The best concert I've seen all year: Marty Stuart played the Old State House on Saturday. Like the best televangelists, he looked like someone who deserved to be up front, which is to say fairly outrageous. But when he spoke, in the deep, dulcet twang of someone from Mississippi, his aw-shucks charisma made us forget that he was wearing black leather pants, more foundation than Joan Rivers and a mullet-pompadour combo that looked less styled than shocked.
Stuarts collection of country music memorabilia, Sparkle and Twang, is on exhibit at the Old State House, and he added to that history by telling stories between nearly every other song. Like any good storyteller, he knew his audience. He called out silver-haired beauty Maxine Brown, famous for singing in the Browns and someone he said treated him like family when he was a teen-ager playing mandolin in Lester Flatts band. Later, he dropped the word Tyson in a song with a chicken reference Don Tyson, who bankrolled at least part of the event was sitting at a table by the front of the stage. Even the anonymous faces in the 250-person crowd felt pangs of recognition as Stuart told tales about playing Mountain View, BJs Star-Studded Honky Tonk and Jimmy Doyles Country Club, where he said a tin sign over the interstate announced a performance by Marty Stewart and stayed up two months after he played.
Then there was the sangin, which flitted through the history of 20th century roots music. There was bluegrass, of course, like the Bill Monroe instrumental number Rawhide, and some of that swingin hillbilly that Stuart was famous for in the early days of his solo career. Stuart played Jimmie Driftwoods Tennessee Stud for the first time. More unexpected was a blue-eyed soul version of With Body and Soul (another Monroe classic), a country-surf instrumental that sounded like the Ventures at the Ryman and covers of songs by the Stones and Tom Petty.
Stuart spent most of the night on the mandolin, an instrument he often plays so fast his hands blur. His band, the Superlatives guitarist Cousin Kenny Vaughan, stand-up bassist the Apostle Paul Martin and drummer Handsome Harry Stinson was crack, as good as any national backing unit I've seen. Befitting the intimacy of the hall, they kept it acoustic. Stinson played a snare on a strap around his neck with brushes. Everyone harmonized.
Tickets were $35, which is pretty steep for a lot of us. Weather the expense next time.
By Lindsey Millar
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