Onstage! Marty Stuart - Concord Pavillion - Concord, CA

This appeared in Modern Screen's Country Music Magazine - July 1994

In the darkness, the hulking shape of a rocket ship balloons upward from the stage, its nose planted downward at a precarious angle. The screeching sound of a plane hurling earthward splits the air, followed by an ominous shattering crash. A moment of deafening silence, and then ghostlike voices from the hillbilly past echo eerily in the darkness......

"The good Lord willing and the creek don't rise......"

"Thank you so much and howdy......"

Music spirals gloriously upward to swallow the haunting sound of these voices of yesteryear, and light glows from the open door of the crashed rocket ship as Marty Stuart climbs out--the much-beloved Jumpin' Jack Flash who has blazed a path between the hillbilly past and today's new breed of country with a style quite unlike any other.

A silver conch belt slung enticingly low over denim-molded hips and wrapped in a black jacket that glitters with sequins, the darkly handsome singer from Mississippi looks hot enough to explode.

He kicks his part of "The Marty Party" (which also featured Doug Stone, Pirates Of The Mississippi and Billy Burnette) into high drive with the infectious "Get Back To The Country," then swings into "Western Girls" to immediately fire up the crowd. Off to one side of the stage, one zealous fan is already on her feet, dancing in place, arms swaying high to whip an enormous white scarf above her head.

"Whatch'y'all think of my hillbilly band so far?" Marty cries out, his handsome face beaming with pride. As he peels off some sultry guitar licks with an unhurried sensuality that heats the blood, he passes his dark glaze over the first few rows of his mesmerized audience. "Concord, California..." he murmurs to elicit immediate squeals of rapture. "I'm looking out at y'all and I gotta tell you--boy I hope I get lucky tonight, that's all I can tell ya!" They're howling deliriously as he begins pumping out the frenzied lyrics of "Touch Me, Turn Me On, and Burn Me Down," eyes squeezed shut, his hands fluttering up and down as he wiggles his whole body with abandon.

He introduces the "hillbilly band" he's so proud of: "And my name is....." he taunts, and the crowd screams his name back at him. "No! My name is Porter Wagoner, and I'm glad to meet you, thank you very much!" he shoots back at them. His eyes crinkling with mirth, he points at the lady off to his right who's still on her feet dancing and waving her scarf doggedly. "And this lady over here with the white flag--I think she surrenders!" he laughs.

He calls his style "rockin' hillbilly music with a thump." And he knows just how to mix the right amount of sexiness with stone-hillbilly to be uniquely fascinating.

To the throbbing beat of "Tempted," he moves slowly, provocatively across the stage, his dark, sultry gaze fixed on his audience, a white-hot strobe light flickering madly around him. Spinning and stomping his flashy booted feet around the stage, he takes sweet pleasure in turning his back to his audience to waggle his hips.

He balances that flirtiness with some traditional bluegrass, singing "High On A Mountain Top" with such a pure and lonesome hillbilly twang, and plucking a mandolin so sweetly, it breaks your heart.

As he sings his crowd-pleasing smash, "This One's Gonna Hurt You," puffs of smoke billow at intervals from the "crashed" rocket ship behind him.

Throughout his show, he can't say enough about how proud he is of his hillbilly roots. "When I was thirteen years old, this man from the Grand Ole Opry named Lester Flatt gave me a gig. Tell ya what--if it weren't for people like Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, George Jones, Merle and Buck Owens, Johnny Cash and Roger Miller--we ain't got no country music. So how 'bout a hand for the pioneers of country music folks!"

He gives an emotion-drenched delivery then of the haunting "Long Black Veil" to the somber roll of the drumbeat,, his voice so mournfully sweet, his expression so serious as he holds his guitar high to pluck a bittersweet tune, it wrings the soul dry.

An instrumental break of some frenzied backwoods fiddling brings the crowd to its feet to hoot and holler, to clog their hillbilly hearts out to the hoe-down skitter of it. "Just a bit of a personal question here," he says above the screams that swell at the familiar opening chords of "Now That's Country." "Is there anybody here, besides me that was raised out in the country? Tell the truth! You know what I'm talking about!" he says before barking out a three-count to jump-start the song and evoke howls of elation.

He fans the flames of their frenzy as he rocks his hips with sexy indolence to the pulsating beat of it, peeling off some fevered guitar licks to stretch the song long and bringing it to a scorching wrap by crying out, "Thank God for the country."

He tears offstage, leaving the crowd howling on its feet, only to burst back out moments later to bring the roof down with his monster signature smash, "Hillbilly Rock." The place is rocking, the crowd on its feet, clapping and flailing their arms, doing the Electric Slide in the aisles in long snake-like lines as they shout back at him, "doin' a little thing called the hillbilly rock!"

And then with a rockabilly thump and a slash uniquely his own, Marty Stuart is gone again. He'd accomplished the mission he'd crash-landed to do. He'd set a fire in their hearts by grounding them spiritually in the hillbilly past. Surely, he'd done ol' Hank and the rest of them up in Hillbilly Heaven proud tonight.

By Marianne Horner

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