What's In A Bumpkin's Attic?

This appeared in the LA Weekly - April 15, 2009

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Marty Stuart is such a notorious pack rat when it comes to country music collectibles that he actually has his own warehouse in Nashville to store all the eye-popping swag. Fortunately for us, he finally made an effort to pull out some of the finest, and this exhibit, aptly titled Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey, should deliver a sweet kick in the head to even non-country fans. He's assembled 300 artifacts, from the likes of George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, even Johnny Horton (one of his toupees?), chief among them more than 30 prime examples of stage wardrobe, more than 20 musical instruments and dozens of pairs of boots. Better still, there's almost 30 sets of handwritten lyrics — including the great Hank Williams' original scrawls of "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Cold, Cold Heart" (will the latter reveal any clue as to whether or not Hank really lifted that line from a mushy 1952 romance comic book?). Also, a fat stash of Patsy Cline's stuff, including her well-traveled makeup bag and a letter to famed North Hollywood "rodeo tailor" Nudie going over plans for a new outfit she wanted — sent less then a week before her death. Stuart's former father-in-law, Johnny Cash, is represented by his first black suit from 1955 and handwritten "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Man in Black" lyrics. Rounded out by 100 photographs, it's a fully realized presentation with "a life-size dressing room, interactive performance stage, listening stations, ambient audio and video documentaries" throughout. Head-spinning, hardcore hillbilly thrills assured.

By Jonny Whiteside

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