Electric Barnyard Tour Stops in Huntington

This appeared in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch - August 22, 2003

On most concert stops, Huntington and its Big Sandy Superstore Arena are usually always the smallest market and arena that a national act is hitting. But certainly not on this tour.

Marty Stuart concocted an old-time tent-revival-like tour with country legend Merle Haggard called the Electric Barnyard Festival that started July 6, swinging through America’s small towns from Hutchinson, Kansas, to Clarksville, Tennessee, with blue-collar ticket prices.

Tonight, the Electric Barnyard Festival tour rolls in for a 7:30 p.m. show at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Tickets are $22 and $27. The tour then has six more shows, finishing on Aug. 31 in Batavia, N.Y.

We caught up with Marty Stuart on Wednesday morning by phone at his Nashville home and talked about the refreshingly odd tour, which started the day after he and Merle played the UFO-rich city of Roswell, N.M.

QUESTION: What’s the summer been like in the Barnyard?

STUART: "With this kind of roving carnival show, we were at the mercy of the elements, and God forgot to send the limo and not make everything 100 degrees -- that beat us up a little bit. The other side is the music, which is the first and foremost thing, it has been phenomenal. I felt like it has been something fresh. We’ve taken our lumps at the box office, but I felt like I was part of something and not just in the parade. It’s been a wonderful experience."

QUESTION: Was the tour what you envisioned, getting out to the people?

STUART: "I knew this was a tour that existed on paper, and I couldn’t tell anything until we got out in the world with it. First and foremost, it is a fall tour, but the tour will be back in some form.

"At the end of every single concert, I have gone out to the merchandise table, and I feel like a country preacher at the back of the church. I say ‘thank you’ to everybody, and just listening to some of the stories, I know I accomplished what I was looking for. There have been soldiers’ families coming needing to get their minds off of what is happening now. In Washington, there was an old-timer who had been listening to Connie Smith since 1964 but had never got to see her. (Smith is Stuart’s wife of six years). He was crying and saying that ‘your songs buried my wife, and we played your songs at my daughter’s wedding.’ "

QUESTION: I know you have been playing music professionally for most of your life, but you are still very much a student of the music with open ears and heart to the folks such as Merle and Johnny Cash. What are you learning on the road with Merle?

STUART: "Oh God, every time I sit down with Merle I learn something. I can’t point to any one lesson. You listen to his songs and his poetry and the way he sings and his view of things. It is what they are -- from a different vantage point. It is just incredible to walk through this world with him."

QUESTION: Tell us about the band you’ve assembled, "The Fabulous Superlatives:" guitarist Kenny Vaughan (formerly with Lucinda Williams); drummer Harry Stinson (Steve Earle) and bassist Brian Glenn.

STUART: "The first show we ever played was The Wheeling Jamboree. That night, I knew that we had us a band that could make a difference that didn’t pander to any kind of trend -- a self-styled band full of individuality. It is a Saturday night wherever we go."

QUESTION: How important was getting back to the streets of Philadelphia, so to speak, in refueling your spirit for this CD? (Note: Stuart spent a lot of time in his birthplace of Philadelphia, Miss., about 150 miles south of the Mississippi Delta, on his family farm and in the woods in 2002 to clear his head before cutting a new CD.)

STUART: "I had to find a getting-on place somewhere, and home is usually the best place for me. I had to find that patch of original inspiration. The hardest part about that kind of inspiration is that it is always a struggle commercially, but I can’t let that stand in my way, I have to trust my own gut instincts even when they take me off to the left. Everything on the album I can honestly deliver time after time after time."

QUESTION: I love the new CD title, "Country Music," and there has been a lot made of the title. It is on the surface simple, but speaks volumes.

STUART: "I figured that if I died, my obit would read 'country singer'. So this is sort of my coming out party for the 21st century. I thought we may as well call me and my music what it is."

QUESTION: If you bring the Electric Barnyard back for a second round next year, what’s going to change?

STUART: "Mainly the season; this is a fall tour. Beyond that, I think, some of the things, like the games had to go. It was fun the first few nights, but people came to hear the music. It was just a little too weird to see someone crawling up a rock wall while Merle sang, ‘Today, I Started Loving Her Again.’ "

By Dave Lavender

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