Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives
Richard Bull reports
As the Transatlantic Sessions were genially unfolding in the polite surroundings of the Royal Concert Hall, downtown there was a riot going on. A riot in Nudie suits with flashing rhinestones. A riot of “high-octane hillbilly music”. Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives had been snowed in at Newark Airport for 48 hours, on their way from Nashville, but they’d just made it in time and they weren’t about to disappoint.
A new name on the Celtic Connections bill, so to offer some background...
When Marty Stuart was barely a teenager he was playing guitar and mandolin for the legendary Lester Flatt. Later he played in Johnny Cash’s band and enjoyed country hits in his own right. His isn’t a studied take on country music, it’s the real stuff. He’s a masterful musician, a born entertainer, and a guardian of the music’s tradition.
And indeed it turned out that Marty’s battered telecaster previously belonged to White, the pioneering country guitarist best known for his time with The Byrds. In tribute Marty and his band sped through Hummingbyrd, which took up where White’s Nashville West left off, and had the Professor hopping from one foot to the other.
Not always a sympathetic venue, the Arches proved the ideal location, with talking, drinking, shouting and the occasional passing train creating a honky-tonk ambience. “That is the gospel train, ladies and gentlemen,” said Marty. “Anyone wanna go?”
And so the band switched between honky tonk, gospel, bluegrass and balladry, never easing up the energy or the entertainment. They covered hits, classics and new songs. They played loud and wild, high and lonesome, and from the heart. Marty brought a tear to the collective eye with the story of Johnny Cash and the fruit trees, leading into Marty’s tribute song, Dark Bird.
“Nothing outstays its welcome. Boom!” said the Professor.
It was one of those gigs where each personality in the band sparkled – like the rhinestones on their suits. Marty named them as the Apostle Paul Martin on bass, Handsome Harry Stinson on drums and Cousin Kenny Vaughan on guitar. Handsome Harry almost stole the show with his held notes and high parts in the gospel set.
The only shame was the curfew falling when both the crowd and the band wanted more, but what we did get was a wildly entertaining all-round show to remind us of everything great about country music.
The Professor’s conclusion: “Fabulously superlative!”