Scene Alive

This appeared in Now Dig This - March 2011

Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives
Hall, 2, The Sage, Gateshead
January 29, 2011

Marty and the trio took to the stage around 9 p.m. These guys will be very familiar to those lucky enough to have access to RFD-TV's The Marty Stuart Show, which airs in the UK on Rural TV. The taciturn 'Cuz'n' Kenny Vaughan is on guitar. "Handsome" Harry Stinson plays drums, and "Apostle" Paul Mar6tin, for whom the phrase "just a-pickin' and a-grinnin' " was truly invented, is on bass. Marty was clearly comfortable with the venue -- kind of a Texas honky tonk but without the rednecks and the long ride home. Unlike The Sage's main arena, Hall 2 is very compact, with the seating spiraling around the stage on three levels, and eveyrone close to the performer.

Marty opened with a terrific version of Carl Belew's "Stop The World And Let Me Off" and followed up with the equally impressive "Branded" from the latest CD Ghost Train. Don Reno and Red Smiley's 1956 King bopper "Country Boy Rock and Roll" (also on Ghost Train) was performed as a blistering duet with Kenny Vaughan, leading into the rousing "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'." Waylon Jennings' "Just To Satisfy You" was perfect and I was already aware that I was witnessing something special!

Another Ghost Train track, the pacy "Hummingbyrd" was the first of a handful of instrumentals. Next up was "Tempted," one of Marty's hits from his MCA days. He made several references to Johnny Cash during the show and The Man in Black's shadow loomed large throughout the evening. The next two songs, "Long Black Veil" and "The Wall" were on Johnny's legendary Live At Folsom Prison album. The former was most eerie and the sound man, who deservedly got a thumbs-up from the star, produced some amazing echo effects. Kenny then rocked things back up again with "Country Music's Got A Hold On Me" and "Walk Like That," a more sophisticated compex take on the old "Guitar Boogie." Can this guy play! Not to be outdone, Paul Martin weighed in with the energized "Bluegrass Express" from the Cool Country Favorites CD.

Marty then spoke at some length on a subject close to his heart, namely the exploitation and maltreatment of the Native American at the hands of the white man. He made specific reference to the Lakota nation (Sioux in white parlance) and performed the very moving "Casino" from his Badlands album. Kenny captured Luther Perkins demeanour perfectly on "Kenny Played The Boogie Woogie" but the second of his two solos was very much his own. On "Ring Of Fire," he used his guitar to mimic the brass on the JC original. Mention of Marty Robbins brought forth an unrehearsed "Don't We All Have The Right (To Be Wrong Now and Then)" with Marty and the boys recreating to an uncanny degree the harmonies of Robbins, Bobby Sykes and Don Winters. This was so well received, we got an encore.

Following an amazing demonstration of Marty's skill on acoustic guitar, "It Takes A Worried Man" was performed with gusto by the ensemble. The Johnny Cash tribute, "Dark Bird," was inspired by the humble crow. As Marty correctly observed, crows dress just like Johnny Cash! After another instrumental tour de force from Marty on mandolin, Harry Stinson, with a snare drum hanging around the neck and using only brushes, joined the gang at the mike for a gospel segment. Marty refers to Harry as his "stretch out man" who can deliver that high, lonesome sound. "Just A Little Talk With Jesus" and a couple of Bill Monroe tunes, "Working On A Building" and "Angels Rock Me To Sleep" were meant to signal the end of the show.

However, the audience wasn't having any of it and Marty duly re-emerged. His "What do you want to hear?" was answered by a host of titles from all cornres. In the event he did "Hillbilly Rock," his first solo hit, "This One's Gonna Hurt You (For A Long Long Time), originally recorded as a duet with his pal Travis Tritt, and "Little Heartbreaker (The Likes Of You)," a song he composed with Ralph Mooney for Ghost Train. After almost an hour and three quarters, he took his final bow, the trio playing him off with the Ventures-styled "La Tingo Tango," the theme song from The Marty Stuart Show.

Despite repeated announcements that the building was closing imminently, Marty and the boys hung around until everyone in the queue got their merchandise signed and happily posed for pictures. This set the seal on a truly unforgettable occasion.

By Harry Dodds

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