Marty Stuart Hosts Legends, Rising Stars At Late Night Jam

This appeared in The Tennessean - June 11, 2015

At the beginning of every Late Night Jam, Marty Stuart asks the crowd, "Do you trust me?" The answer has always been a resounding yes, and with good reason: each year, Stuart brings a rich and varied group of country artists to perform at the annual show, which has become one of the highlights of the CMA Music Festival. "One of the things that I've noticed is that the traditional country music fan has a harder time finding a show to go to (during CMA Music Fest)," Stuart said in a preshow interview. "I'm always mindful of that. Traditional country has to be the base of the show. On top of that, we can put anything in the world."

On Wednesday night and into Thursday morning the 14th annual Late Night Jam returned to a packed Ryman Auditorium. With WSM DJ and Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs acting as host/straight man, Stuart backed by his wonderfully twangy Fabulous Superlatives delivered a diverse lineup that played for nearly four hours and spanned the history of country music, from Carl Jackson and the Orthophonic Orchestra's homage to the music of the 1920s and '30s to new acts such as the Brothers Osborne.

There were several legends Charley Pride, whose rendition of "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" earned him a standing ovation, Country Music Hall of Famer Hargus "Pig" Robbins, songwriter Jimmy Webb and Connie Smith, whose rendition of "How Great Thou Art" filled every inch of the building alongside contemporary chart-toppers. Eric Church, who first played the Late Night Jam several years ago, returned Wednesday night. He brought along Chris and Morgane Stapleton and half of Little Big Town: Karen Fairchild and Phillip Sweet, to cover The Band's "The Weight" and Little Big Town's "Girl Crush."

Also on the bill Wednesday night were several newcomers, ranging from rootsy New Zealand band The Bads to 10-year-old EmiSunshine, whose cheerful name belied her delightfully eerie song "Madelyn's Hill." The youngest performer of the night was pintsized mandolin player 3-year-old Emmett Dryden, who seemed equally excited about his Ryman debut and the donut that awaited him backstage.

At 1:30 a.m., Stuart closed the show by leading the Ryman in "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." After an evening of honoring country music's past as well as witnessing its multifaceted present and exciting future, the sleep-deprived, yet exhilarated crowd slowly filed out of the auditorium. Hours earlier, Stuart had asked for the audience members' trust. They gave it to him, and were rewarded with an unforgettable night that will be one of the highlights of the 2015 CMA Music Festival.

By Juli Thanki

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