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MARTY STUART AND HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES - LIVE AT THE RYMAN [September 2006 Issue]
Here's an honor that comes rarely to exponents of bluegrass and traditional country music: Superlatone is an imprint set up by Tony Brown and Tim DuBois of Universal South Records, specifically for the purpose of releasing albums by the very fine singer and multiinstrumentalist Marty Stuart.
There have been several such releases so far, each of them different in tone and content, and the latest is a document of an exciting live set recorded at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in July of 2003. It finds Stuart and his small band of top session men (including banjo picker Charlie Cushman and fiddler Stuart Duncan, among others) romping through a set of bluegrass standards and tradcountry standbys, along with one or two Stuart originals. He apparently didn't know the set was being recorded and hadn't even rehearsed the band for more than a few minutes before the show, and perhaps as a result of both of those factors, the crew sounds loose and uninhibited - though not loose enough to sound sloppy.
The set opens with "Orange Blossom Special," a choice that may seem a bit obvious and boring in theory, but it absolutely burns in practice. Other standards that are given a new breath of life on this thrilling album include the banjo showpiece "Shuckin' The Corn," "John Henry" (played here in a strippeddown instrumental version), and "The Great Speckled Bird" (featuring a guest appearance by resonator guitar god Uncle Josh Graves). For those who prefer a more modern version of old country music, there's a strutting rendition of "Walk Like That" and a headlong run through "Hillbilly Rock," and there's also a snare drum - a tasteful one, I promise. Highly recommended. (Universal South Records, 40 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203, www.universalsouthrecords.com.)RA