Marty Stuart stepped onstage and showed New York what a rockin’ show really is. High energy, great songs, full involvement by all bandmembers– this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in months, and that’s a big pool, readers. Leading with a charged-up version of “Stop the World and Let Me Off,” the band snapped and crackled without letup for the next 25 songs. Apparently Stuart had been asked whether he’d cancel because of a severe blizzard in New York. “I knew I’d find myself in a room with some like-minded people. I don’t care about no ice or snow,” he said, and indeed, although the U.S. Post Office (whose motto, “Neither rain nor snow…” sits carved in stone just two miles away) closed for the weather, City Winery was packed with like-minded souls, and Stuart was packin’.
The aptly-named Superlatives look like the happiest guys on the face of the earth, and why not? From the looks of it, bassist/guitarist Paul Martin, drummer Harry Stinson and Stuart are just three mischievous boys having fun, playing extraordinary rockabilly loud and proud. The Superlatives had sparkles on their coats, and Stuart, who’s looked pretty much the same for the past 20 years, showed up in his trademark fancy coat and scarf and sparkled from within. Longtime Superlatives guitarist Kenny Vaughan, the most reserved of the lot, showed off his serious chops on song after song, but this band really has three lead guitarists who can trade off at will.
Stuart & Superlatives have just come out with a double album, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (the title possibly lifted from Elmore Editor John Kuroski’s regular column, but that’s OK). The long, well-paced set traded off Stuart favorites with the new material and songs lifted from Stuart’s earlier life as a sideman with Johnny Cash and Lester Flatt, hits perfectly lifted from Charlie Rich (1969’s “Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs,”), and Bill Monroe’s “My Last Days on Earth,” which allowed Stuart to show off his considerable talents on the mandolin.
For this fan, rockabilly and bluegrass shined brightest in a bejeweled set. “Streamline Lover,” rattling the rails through the Smokies, “Women Make a Fool Out of Me,” played faster than I’ve heard it before and “Bluegrass Express” (ironically all-electric) all got our blood running, though it’s a tough call. Each of the Superlatives took on a few tunes, and the outstanding close harmony typical of Stuart’s shows made drummer Stinson’s lead “Working on A Building For My Lord” truly memorable.
Toward the end of the show, the band started off in the wrong key and restarted. Doubled over with laughter, Stuart joked, “It’s all right, we’ve already got their money.” For a good glass of wine and almost two hours of Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, money is no object.
– Suzanne Cadgène
Photos by Ebet Roberts