The Marty Stuart Show: Keepin' Country Music Traditions Alive

This appeared on - June 18, 2009

Do you like country music? I mean real country music, not that pop-driven crap with a twang that most top 40 country stations pass off as the nation's music, but the real deal where the songs are about broken hearts, drinking too much, and wondering where all the old trains have gone. If you look for tunes like that, the sort that Hank Williams, Porter Wagoner, George Jones, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard made famous on your standard radio dial, you're going to come up empty my friend.

However, for country music aficionados there's hope in the form of The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV. This throwback to the Tennessee Hayride, and other country music shows from the 50s and 60s concentrates on one thing and one thing only — real country music, created by the sort of musicians who prefer acoustic and steel guitars to the electric variety and where the beat is kept moving by a stand-up bass or a moonshine jug. Running a scant 30 minutes every Saturday night at 7 p.m. central time, Stuart makes sure to include every style of country music he can, leading off with a classic of the genre or a hit of his own before giving the show over to one of his many guests who deliver a tune, only to be relieved by Stuart's wife, the great Connie Smith who soulfully belts out one of the many songs in her vast repertoire. During the rest of the breathlessly pace show, a gospel tune is sung, comedy relief is provided by banjo player Leroy Troy and the small stage is the sight of American music at its finest, with Stuart and his group, the Fabulous Superlatives, serving as the house band. Employing only two guitars, a stand up bass and a small drum kit, the musicianship this quartet displays is something to behold as their raw talent gives birth to rich country sounds that either threaten to burn the set down or elicit tears with their tenderness.

Though you might not consider yourself a fan of country music, that shouldn't keep you from tuning in. No doubt, you'll find yourself appreciating the craftsmanship on display, as the art created here is purely organic in origin. This is as genuine as it gets where music is concerned and I find myself marveling again and again at how music so rich can be generated by such simple instruments. Undoubtedly, the show's strongest suit is Stuart himself. The four-time Grammy winner has been called "the ambassador of country music" and it's easy to see why as works diligently to keep alive the songs that form the foundation of this genre, while giving the spotlight to new artists intent on continuing these traditions. This was obvious during the final show of the just completed first season which featured established acts, the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band and the Grand Old Opry Square Dancers, as well as newcomers, the Quebe Sisters Band, a trio of young women from East Texas who each play the fiddle and break your heart with pitch perfect harmonies as they keep alive the tradition of Texas swing. My friends, for pure entertainment, it simply does not get better than this.

What I find to be the most fun about the show is Stuart himself. A charming host and obviously excited about this venture, he displays a sense of enthusiasm for the music and the show that's contagious. He loves what he's in doing, helps viewers appreciate the music on display and is obviously the biggest fan of all the guests he invites to the show. Whether it be the Oak Ridge Boys, Charley Pride, Little Jimmie Dickens, Wanda Jackson or Mel Tillis, Stuart allows them to take the spotlight on his show and lets them prove why they're vital to this musical form and why it should be appreciated.

With the second season of the show set to debut in the fall, now is the time to jump on board and catch the reruns of the show's first season. I record each one and play them throughout the week, tapping my toes as I read, cracking up at the show's simple down home humor and getting the occasional chill when gospel time rolls around. The Marty Stuart Show is old-fashioned entertainment at its very best with the intention of gathering in new fans too carry on the musical heritage it spotlights. Give a look and join the show's growing legion of fans. You won't regret it and who knows, you may find yourself recommending it to a friend.

By Chuck Koplinski

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