Music Good, But Honky Tonk It Wasn't

This appeared in The Tennessean - September 24, 1994

Last night's Honky Tonk Heroes concert at Starwood Amphitheatre was probably misnamed. Sure, the headline act was a hyper-nasal traditionalist, but his co-performers included a 1990s version of the Sun Records hillbilly cats and a powerful vocalist who mixes acoustic rock and country. The billing might have been a bit off, but the music was pretty good.

Marty Stuart certainly has the country roots that Lawrence boasts. The former sideman for Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash turned in credible versions of Haggard's Swinging Doors and Lefty Frizzell's Long Black Veil. But the bulk of his set was dominated by fun, pulsating tunes that carved out images of the late-'50s brand of country/rock. Pounding backbeats, low-tuned guitars and heavy vocal reverb marked high-energy, rave-ups like Tempted, Now That's Country, Burn Me Down, his three-day-old Shake That Thing and an infection version of Waylon Jennings' Clyde.

Stuart is truly a good-timin' entertainer, with a wicked smile, adept guitar sensibilities, a decent Chuck Berry duckwalk and an eye for the bizarre. The inflatable Mary Party rocket ship in back of the stage and a banner featuring a skull in rhinestone Indian headdress were inexplicably amusing--a perfect complement to the wacko humor that makes him so charismatic.

By Tom Roland

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