When Ruidoso Woke Up, Hillbillies Were Rocking The Track

This appeared in the Ruidoso News - May 29, 2008

The young bucks and fillies were here from places like Tatum and Dexter, and they joined the throngs of visitors Memorial Day weekend that reassured us - after a dismal winter - that Ruidoso is the place to be.

The bucks and the fillies - and a few others who looked like they'd been rode hard and put up wet - jammed Billy's Bar & Grill at the racetrack Saturday evening, monitoring their hand-helds, ignoring the wide-screens showing some nags or Pistons-Celtics, and chattering away as the Graham Brothers laid down smooth country & Western toe-tappers against the far wall.

"This is my kind of place," my date said, as if she'd been in a bar before.

Then, at 8 o'clock, at the promised time, and as the hills of Ruidoso Downs cut a sharp silhouette in the fading light, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives took the stage in front of the grandstand and delivered a mesmerizing, exhilarating 90-minute set of hillbilly boogie, "newgrass," old-time gospel, bluesy country and high-twang, deep-fried rock 'n' roll.

It all dug back to Stuart's Mississippi roots, where downhome music drips from the magnolias.

Stuart is not your generic Nashville "hat act." In fact, he wears no hat at all. He's done stints with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash and has collaborate with the likes of Bob Dylan. He's the rarest of the rare: a frontman who also plays lead guitar - and blazing mandolin. That made the Superlatives a band that can knock you over many ways: All four members can sing - the high-lonesome harmonies were gorgeous - and guitarist Cousin Kenny Vaughan even commanded center stage on one number.

At other times, Stuart and Vaughan traded twin leads in the manner of so many "Southern rock" bands like the Outlaws, Skynyrd or the Allmans. They combined with bassist Paul Martin and drummer Handsome Harry Stinson on some sweet, soaring gospel, and through it all, Stuart wove stories that brought the crowd into the moment.

This ole music critic has seen a lot of shows in his time, but never one that was better produced. It started on time, the stage was positioned close to the seats and the sound was clear as the stars above.

If this is the way the track is going to run its concerts this season, you can take me back. My date and I will hit Billy's first, though, to get acclimated.

By Marty Racine

Return To Articles Return To Home Page