Opera House Celebration Series Opens With Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives

This appeared in The Barre/Montpelier Times-Argus - September 14, 2007

A truly impressive musician with a breadth of talent and style opens this year's Celebration Series at the Barre Opera House on Friday, September 21, 2007. Marty Stuart and his band the Fabulous Superlatives make their Opera House debut in a concert that will feature, country, bluegrass and gospel music.

Last year Kathy Mattea, one of country music's more insightful performers, opened the series and Stuart's show this year should have similar appeal.

Dan Casey, the recently appointed executive director at the Barre Opera House, said of Stuart; "He is really one of the biggest names in country music in the past few decades. With his recent return to his roots I thought he'd be especially appealing to our central Vermont audience."

According to Casey, Stuart's name has been a frequent one on requests from audience members to the series. And, he said, Stuart is "renowned for his live performances. He interacts closely with the audience, there is a lot of action on stage and he gets the crowd revved up. He's the ultimate showman."

Stuart will be performing his Nashville hits but as his recent performances and recordings show, he's put a lot more emphasis on bluegrass and gospel music of late. "We are expecting an acoustic show for this performance," said Casey.

Marty Stuart is a performer who's covered a lot of musical ground in his 48 years. On his recent duet anthology CD Compadres, – an album that highlights a career which goes back to 1972 when he was just 13 – he sings and plays with a variety of stars from Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash to Steve Earle, The Staple Singers and B.B. King. While Stuart's country mellow vocals are the familiar starting point for listeners, his superlative bluegrass mandolin playing and guitar picking are less well-known aspects of his talent.

Marty Stuart (the Marty is for Marty Robbins) is a true child prodigy born in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1960. He's been playing mandolin and guitar since his preteens and was precocious enough to start his first band at age eight. He was so good an instrumentalist, in fact, that Lester Flatt, (half of the famous Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass band) picked him in 1972 to play acoustic guitar in his then-band the Nashville Grass. Stuart was just 13. A few years later this wünderkind became the band's mandolinist.

With musical roots solidly planted in bluegrass, Stuart stretched out and joined the Johnny Cash Show in 1980 at age 20. Stuart counts Cash, along with George Jones and Haggard as important influences on his music.

He's also performed with fiddle great Vassar Clements and the legendary Doc Watson.

In 1986, at age 26, Stuart began his solo career and in the ensuing 21 years he has recorded nearly 20 albums. His accolades include six top-ten hits (including "Hillbilly Rock," "Tempted" and "Burn Me Down"), one platinum and five gold albums, and four Grammy Awards. He has hosted his own prime-time television show and has collaborated with many other musicians on a variety of projects. He was inducted in 1992 as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

On his recently released CD Live At The Ryman a live album taken from a single show at the famed Nashville venue, Stuart and his band show just how well they can play. This concert was bluegrass at its best with fine lead vocals, great harmonies, and sizzling instrumentals. There should be a lot of the same for the upcoming concert.

But, Stuart is not just about bluegrass. On other recent releases he's covered gospel in Souls' Chapel and in Badlands, he performs a group of songs about the lives of Native Americans.

Stuart's current band is The Fabulous Superlatives, which includes guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson, and bassist Brian Glenn, each in his own right a fine instrumentalist and singer.

The Marty Stuart performance leads off a diverse set of shows for this year's Celebration Series. Among the acts coming to Barre are Ladysmith Black Mambazo on October 7, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a December 1 holiday show, and the Irish band Altan on February 15. According to Casey, these bands normally play in larger venues but have accepted bookings at the Opera House because "we've paid close attention to routing when they are in the region and we can fill a date that otherwise might not have been booked."

By Art Edelstein

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