Marty Stuart And Travis Tritt

This appeared in The Patriot-News - November 13, 2008

One is a purveyor of modern-day country music laced with Southern rock, honky-tonk, blues and even soul. He has five No. 1 songs and two Grammys and is a jeans-and-leather kind of guy.

The other is steeped in country and bluegrass tradition, honing his instrumental chops with Lester Flatt, Doc Watson and Johnny Cash, before striking out on his own in the '70s and racking up success in the decades to come. He's a natty dresser known as much for his spiky coif and snazzy clothes as for his music.

They've worked together before on records, on hit tracks like "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " and "This One's Gonna Hurt You." The tour they bring to Harrisburg's Forum Saturday reprises their "No Hats" swing of 1992.

They are Travis Tritt, whose latest album is last year's The Storm, produced by "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, and Marty Stuart, respectively.

"My relationship with Travis is one of those partnerships that's bigger than both of us," Stuart said. "It doesn't matter how long we leave it alone, when we finally get back around to it, the public still likes it and we still love performing together."

We caught up with Stuart in a phone interview from his Nashville home.

Q: How did this version of the tour happen?

A: We had booked a series of concerts just me and Porter [Wagoner]. When he passed away [last year], they were going to cancel all the shows. So I called my booking agent and said, "Let me call Travis and see if he's into [doing one show at a music festival in Savannah, Georgia]."

We met up for the first time in years and we didn't rehearse it. We walked out onstage and it was like we had never missed a beat. That's how it came back together.

Q: What's different this time?

A: It's not with our bands, it's just the two of us. That's totally different -- it's really an intimate evening, and it's wonderful.

Q: What's it like playing with Tritt:

A: We make each other do better -- he makes me sing better, I drive him to play better. We spark humor in each other that I didn't know was inside me. It's a brother love.

Q: Talk about your latest album, Compadres, a collection of duets with luminaries like the late Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle and Tritt.

A: The song "Farmer's Blues" with Merle Haggard probably represents everything I love and cherish about traditional country music. I had the chance to perform it with somebody I greatly love and admire. Me and my wife Connie [Smith] wrote it, so it has a pretty good hillbilly pedigree.

And of course, "Doin' My Time," with Johnny Cash, that was a fun time, because I had been in his band [in the early '80s]. He came back and honored me with his presence for a change.

Q: What's coming up?

A: [Stuart hosts The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV and Marty Stuart's American Odyssey on XM satellite radio. He filled us in on what else he was doing.]

My book is just about to come out -- it's a photography book called Country Music: The Masters. I've been taking pictures on the road since I was 13.

I've got about nine or 10 new songs on deck. We have to get back in the studio the first quarter of next year. My wife, Connie, has a new record that's ready to go that I'll produce. Looks like the first quarter of next year is about making TV shows and making records.

By Kira L. Schlechter

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