Music Review - Marty Stuart, Del McCoury Band

Show provides night of fun, wonders

This appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal - December 2, 2007

At 11 o'clock Saturday night, Del McCoury suddenly realized it was quitting time — not just for the night, but for this season's tour. A little while later, he exited the Brown Theatre stage, but only grudgingly. And only after Marty Stuart had joined him on stage for a haunting version of the classic Bill and Charlie Monroe duet "What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul," a perfect vehicle for the desolate, high ache of McCoury's tenor and Stuart's velvety baritone.

It was a night full of fun and wonders. Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives had opened with a crackerjack acoustic set that roved all over the country landscape. There were galloping instrumentals delivered with a virtuosity so casual it inspired laughter from the audience ("Rawhide"). There were zany hipster parodies torn straight from '50s rockabilly (guitarist Kenny Vaughan's droll "Walk Like That"). There were songs about trains and trucks, about whiskey and women. There were gospel harmonies and odes to temptation. There were honky-tonk shuffles and a swaggering bluegrass take on the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive."

And there was "Dark Bird," Stuart's memorable tribute to his longtime friend and neighbor Johnny Cash. Sung over a brooding ostinato and delicate fingerstyle guitar, it imagined Cash as a black crow rising through a transformative cloud of love and emerging on the other side as a white dove.

McCoury and company steamed through tunes like Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," "Nashville Cats," "Cheek to Cheek With the Blues," Cindy Walker's tribute to Kentucky, "Bluegrass Country" and Mark Walton's intricately formed "Nothin' Special" with its high-velocity rush and stately call-and-response chorus.

As always with the McCoury band, there were dazzling instrumentals: Jason Carter's swooping double-stop fiddle slides, Ronnie McCoury's glistening filigree of mandolin textures, and Rob McCoury's eloquent banjo solos.

And as for vocals, McCoury was in fine form, using his desolate high tenor as a lonesome thread spinning through spooky murder ballads ("Eli Renfro") and tender gospel harmonies ("Promised Land").

By Marty Rosen

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