Marty Stuart Teams With Mavis Staples On "Uncloudy Day"

This appeared on - October 7, 2014

If you listen to a lot popular country music these days you'll find that most of it is really just pop music with a twang. That's not to say it isn't good. In fact, there are some great artists out there writing great tunes, and musicians that can play with astonishing skill and style. It's just that the industry itself has changed. It started with the "countrypolitan" path artists took during the late 1960's and 70's, when their hits began to crossover to top the pop chart as well as the country ones. Somewhere along the line that true, pure and traditional sound just wasn't as prevalent as it had been. That's why Marty Stuart's appearance at The Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, Missouri was an event to remember. Marty and his aptly named band mates, The (His) Fabulous Superlatives, reach back to the roots of country music, producing an achingly beautiful sound in the process. Their appearance as the first act on this seasons' folk music series at the hall (October 3, 2014) marked the opportunity to hear this genuinely joyful noise in person.

From the opening blast of "Parchman Farm" to the closing dance-a-long "Boogie Woogie," Marty and the band provided all the proof needed that country music actually encapsulates a wide range of styles within its realm. I could spend this review listing out all twenty-five numbers they delivered, but instead I'll concentrate on the highlights. That includes a mandolin solo and accompanying story about "The Orange Blossom Special," the gorgeous sing-a-long to "Amazing Grace." which featured Marty's wife and Country Music Hall of Fame legend Connie Smith, as well as a couple of choice Johnny Cash numbers, in particular an incendiary version of "Ring of Fire." Whether it was gospel, old school, or a cut off the new release Saturday Night / Sunday Morning, the songs played out like a welcome history lesson on the way this music was meant to be heard, including some choice vocal harmonies that brought out that "high lonesome" sound critics and scholars have been chronicling for years.

Lest we forget, Marty's band is simply exceptional, from the tasty lead passages picked out by guitarist Kenny Vaughan, to the rocking rhythms of drummer Harry Stinson and stand up bass player Paul Martin. Each got a chance to shine, whether singing, playing, or adding exquisite harmonies to the mix, proving without a doubt that they're worthy of their name. Of course, Marty himself is a consummate showman, full of wonderful stories, funny asides, and an incredible talent that not only features his vocal work, but his expertise on mandolin and guitar. Most importantly as a group, by stripping down their sound to the acoustic essentials, with Stinson using his brushes on a single snare draped over his shoulders, they showed that they could still rock the house. Hey, it isn't about how loud you are, it's the groove you lay down.

If you missed this show try to at least pick up their latest release because Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives are truly second to none. Be sure to check out other shows that are coming up at The Sheldon because no matter what type of music you're hearing there you're hearing it with crystalline clarity.

By Chris Gibson

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