Forget about impostors like Kenny Chesney, Marty Stuart is the most important country music artist of our time. While he played three official showcases this SXSW, his Antone's set was a full-on electric blast of everything he and his supertalented band are capable of. Dressed in black like his mentor Johnny Cash, Stuart flaunted his delightful ability to make all flavors of country with impeccable style. Opening with the bluesy "Now That's Country," he showed of his uncanny chops as a guitarist. Meanwhile, the members of his band, the satirically named Fabulous Superlatives, were no slouches either. Guitarist Kenny Vaughan remains universally lauded as one of Nashville's best, and his technique on the wide range of styles Stuart chose to play demonstrated why. They moved seamlessly from bluegrass and gospel to hillbilly and blues, with perfect vocal harmonies and a remarkable sense of how each should be played with joy and without pretentiousness. As Stuart explained at one point, "The best-played music is from the heart." Few, if any, can invoke Pops Staples, Jason & the Scorchers, and Bill Monroe in less than 45 minutes and make it as enthralling as Stuart and his Superlatives.
By Jim Caligiuri