arty Stuart came out west (some might say, way out west), to help promote his latest California-themed album, "Way Out West." The first half of the evening featured a Q&A section where Stuart answered queries about his teenage years in Lester Flatt's band, his esteemed role in Johnny Cash's touring group and his various solo projects and work with current band, The Fabulous Superlatives.
While it was enlightening to hear, for instance, how recent Academy Award awkward moment presenter, Faye Dunaway, once encouraged Stuart to follow his heart and play the music he loves, it was the (mostly) acoustic music he and his Superlatives performed at evening's end that left the most endearing impression.
Stuart and band performed a few notable songs from the new album, including its druggy (which feels weird to write about such a straight-laced performer as Stuart) title track. But the clear brief set highlight was his cover of another Marty's song - Marty Robbins, that is - "El Paso." Stuart introduced the familiar number by saying how he and band learned it to perform at a ceremony honoring guitarist Grady Martin. He'd never realized before, though, just how many words and guitar notes are included in this classic gunfighter song. And boy did these guys sound wonderful singing and playing it!
And when asked why he chose such a seemingly non-country guy as guitarist Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) to produce this recent album, he proved Petty's country credibility by performing a bluegrass-ized version of Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" that made it sound like this could have been the songs original stylistic intention.
Stuart's group, The Fabulous Superlatives, convincingly earned their name this night. And with the strong new "Way Out West" album under his belt, Stuart deserves to be taken quite seriously and given much respect.