Eights Years After Forming, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives Play First Full-Show In Nashville

Pierce Greenberg | August 26th, 2010

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

Photo by James Minchin

It’s hard to imagine that last night was the first time Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives performed a full show on a Nashville stage. After all, Stuart is one of those omniscient Nashville figures who could/will pop up anywhere in town. He hosts his own show on RFD-TV and frequents the Opry stage. He’s made a name for himself as a walking encyclopedia of all things country music–and if the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum ever shut down, his home could probably serve as a viable back-up.

However, Stuart and his Superlatives probably couldn’t have picked a better time–or place–for their Nashville debut (even if it was a whopping 8 years after their inception). Currently, he’s basking in critical praise for his just-released album, Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, and the intimate Belcourt Theatre was the perfect venue for him to showcase his latest work.

The lights cut out in the vintage theater, and when they flicked back on, there stood Stuart, his silver-mane and the Fabulous Superlatives already grooving into the opening bars of “Bridge Washed Out.” They kept the energy high with “Ghost Train Four-Oh-Ten,” and “Country Boy Rock and Roll.” On the latter tune, Stuart and guitar player Kenny Vaughan came close to eliciting an early standing ovation as they traded frantic, up-tempo licks.

Throughout the 90-minute show, Stuart and his Superlative juxtaposed gripping harmonies–like those on a poignant rendition of “Long Black Veil”–with playful banter on tunes like “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore.” Every person onstage, aside from pedal steel player Gary Carter (who was on loan from Connie Smith’s band), got a turn at the mic. Vaughan livened things up with a laid back “Country Music’s Got a Hold On Me” while bass player Paul Martin sang well on “Bluegrass Express.”

But one of the best moments of the evening came when all four Superlatives, including drummer Harry Stinson, performed a handful of gospel bluegrass tunes, including Bill Monroe’s “Working On A Building.” The technical chops–both playing and singing–were second to none. The ease with which they tackled a gamut of musical styles–yet never straying from the country thread–was truly remarkable.

Stuart’s father, John–who moved to Nashville to enable his teenage son’s musical aspiration–was in attendance. Marty told a story about how his father lost his job as a factory worker at age 52. Then, he dedicated the uncomfortably real-life “Hard Working Man” to his father. A stunning tribute.

After leaving the stage prematurely, Stuart and the Superlatives returned for an encore that included “Branded,” “Little Heartbreaker,” Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream” and “Porter Wagoner’s Grave.” As if an hour and a half of life stories, instrumental genius, and pure country music wasn’t enough, the crowd clamored for more. Stuart obliged, ending the night by dissecting the mandolin on one final instrumental.

As the crowd slowly filed out, an older gentleman remarked: “It better not be another 10 years ’til the next time, damn it.”

  1. Mike Parker
    August 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

    How long has Paul Martin been on bass. Last I remember it was Brian Glenn? I have a couple demos from 10 or so years back that Brian sang on. Great voice.

  2. Jon
    August 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    About 2 and a half years.

    August 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    These guys are just too cool. Paul was a great choice and I feel a better addition. I believe he is the son-in-law of Oak Ridge Boys singer Duane Allen but that needs verified.

    Thanks again to 9513 for multiple references to Marty Stuart, and his band, as of late.

  4. Dave D.
    August 26, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Fitting name for the band, as they are fabulous and superlative. I wasn’t aware of the full-show hiatus for Nashville, and feel fortunate that we saw them play a 50 minute set at the Mercy Lounge a few years ago.

  5. Rick
    August 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I’m just glad Marty and his band guest as often as they do on the Opry! I think Marty and the boys need to do a headlining gig during the Americana Festival to show all those folks what real music is supposed to sound like…

  6. luckyoldsun
    August 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I still think Marty’s more of a supporting player than a true headliner.
    But I’ll probably order this “Ghost Train” CD when the price goes down–as it surely will–because some of the write-ups/reviews have piqued my curiosity.

  7. Brady Vercher
    August 27, 2010 at 12:23 am

    The setlist was posted on Facebook for anyone interested.

  8. Wysha
    August 27, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I have not seen the Superlatives in concert, so that is a priority for me if I go to the States next year. I have got a few of their CDs, but all of them (my CDs) were done when Brian was in the band. Would love to meet the guys, especially Paul, who (in my books) is a far better addition.

    I don’t have Ghost Train, but am hoping that I will get a copy by the end of the year (same with Cool Country Favourites). Luv their stuff.

  9. Martin Fraser
    August 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Saw these guys twice in the Maritimes,once in Halifax and a year later in Moncton.
    FABULOUS!!!!cool guys,stay after to meet folks and chat a bit no stuck-up dudes here.Keepin an eye out for them to come close and I’d go see em again in a heart beat.
    To the fellow who posted that he thinks Marty is still a supporting act,not a headliner………… come on! and oh yea,waiting until the price of the new cd. goes down,give me a break what are ya gonna miss out on a box of Kraft Dinner if you pay full price for the cd.
    Geeze,some people!
    Marty is “kick Ass” in my book.

  10. Jon
    August 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Oh, this reminds me, I love the dumb-ass question about “Country Boy Rock And Roll” – I don’t think the guy noticed that it wasn’t one of Marty’s songs.

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