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The Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH quickly filled in last night as country music legend, Marty Stuart was set to take stage at 9PM. I scanned over the crowd as I was curious what kind of audience an artist like Stuart might draw, being that nearly two decades have passed since his last run in the U.S. Country Top 40. I spotted fans of all ages at the show, from children who were possibly experiencing their first live concert (Now THAT is parenting!), cowboys and rockabillies, to folks who have probably been following Marty since his days with Lester Flatts and Johnny Cash. This packed house goes to show, like with many of the artists that we feature at BORN Country, mainstream country radio is absolutely not the be all, end all to one’s success. Since “You Can’t Stop Love” peaked at #26 in 1997, Marty has released nine albums, from country and bluegrass, to gospel and his latest, Way Out West, featuring some of the coolest surf guitar sounds that you will ever hear. On top of that, Stuart has hosted The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV since the fall of 2008. At just around the 9PM mark, Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives, comprised of “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan, “Handsome” Harry Stinson and “The Professor” Chris Scruggs. The band members were all dressed in flashy purple suits while Stuart donned mostly black, scarf, leather pants and all that one would expect of him. Throughout the night, Marty only performed two of his bigger hits of the 90’s in “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin'” and “Tempted.” At first, I was somewhat disappointed because that is the Marty that I know best. However, as stated above, there is so much material under Stuart’s belt that there is literally no way to fit everything that one could want in a ninety minute set. I got over the lack of 90’s songs very quickly. Each member of The Fabulous Superlatives had a chance to shine, with drummer Harry Stinson absolutely blowing me away. I’ve heard Stinson join in with Marty on some gospel numbers here and there throughout the run of Stuart’s television show, but when he performed a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” I was speechless! This guy has some pipes on him! The setlist was fleshed out with a handful of songs from their latest project, a cover of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and an incredibly stunning solo performance of the bluegrass staple, “Orange Blossom Special.” As great of an experience all of that was, nothing could possibly top the four musicians joining together at mid-stage to perform Marty Robbins’ cowboy classic, “El Paso.” This song has to be up there on the greatest country records of all time. I might even say that it is the best story song, ever recorded. Maybe… Once encore time rolled along, the Cleveland crowd was treated to an appearance by local favorite, Terry Lee Goffee, who joined Marty onstage to perform Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line.” After one more song from Way Out West, Marty thanked the packed house as he left the stage. I’ll admit that there was a lot of Stuart’s setlist that I wasn’t terribly familiar with. Sure, I had hoped to hear radio hits like “Hillbilly Rock,” “Burn Me Down” and “Now That’s Country,” but what I experienced instead was such a special show, that it didn’t even matter. Marty Stuart has such a likable personality, that it wouldn’t matter what songs he performed, I’d have a great time. That’s not something that you can say about many performers!
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Have you ever experienced the phenomena in which you lose contact with an old friend and years later you happen to run into them in a Walmart or other random location? Assuming that this is someone that you want to see again, this is how it typically goes, in my experience: At first, you hug, exchange pleasantries, ask what they’ve been up to lately and then of course, recall some of your favorite memories together.