Hats Off To Tritt/Stuart Tour

This appeared in The Oregonian - November 6, 1992

Look at the Travis Tritt/Marty Stuart No Hats Tour as an attempt to take country music back to its roots. The downside of country music's increasingly popularity is that much of today's country is committed by people whom George Jones would have happily punched out. Assuming, that is, that they would ever descend from their air-conditioned tour buses into the sort of gritty honky tonk where Jones once was given to lurking like a chain-smoking wolf eel in a reef.

Houston music critic Rick Mitchell perfectly summed up the triumph of flash over grit when he referred to the pretenders as "videogenic hat acts." Travis and Stuart aren't quite so disdainful. The idea for the joint tour began after Tritt made a couple of jokes about hat singers.

"It's not that we have anything against singers with hats," insists Stuart. But they're obviously taking a sly dig at the Nashville status quo. "But I feel different," Stuart sings in "Me and Hank and Jumpin' Jack Flash," "'Cause I'm a natural born cat. I'm country to the bone but I don't wear no hat."

By the way, the hat ban extends only to the stage. It's hard to imagine a country concert at Memorial Coliseum without acres of everything from perfectly tended black Stetson a la Garth to battered straw Resistols that look as if they might have sopped up some sweat in their day.

Tritt, Stuart and fiddler Mark O'Connor will play the Coliseum at 8 p.m., Thursday November 12. Stuart and Tritt are united by more than just a lack of headgear. Tritt appears on Stuart's latest album. "This One's Gonna Hurt You," and Stuart wrote "A Hundred Years From Now" on Tritt's "T-r-o-u-b-l-e." Earlier this year, they topped the country charts with their duet of "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore."

They're both young enough to have received a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll along with their country roots. Of the two, Stuart shows the influence the stronger, coming off like some hillbilly rocker in his modified Rod Stewart rooster tail and his incandescent Nudie suits.

But the presence of former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington as a co-writer and player on Tritt's "Blue Collar Man" makes a pretty strong case for Tritt's diverse roots too. And the title song, "T-r-o-u-b-l-e" resurrects an old Elvis single in fine burn-down-the-honky-tonk fashion.

Just to muddle the picture further, Stuart cranks up a reverently exuberant duet with Johnny Cash on "Doin' My Time" that's note-perfect right down to the twanging guitar line.

In the end, this talk of hats and roots matters not at all. These guys are fine, honest players and great singers, and both have a wealth of solid material. The presence of multi-instrumentalist Mark O'Connor, a former Seattlette, is simply going to make this concert an even better bet.

So dust off that Stetson There's a country show coming to town.

By John B. Foyston

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