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Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives live up to their name

La Mirada Theatre, La Mirada, Cal., April 15, 2022

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Marty Stuart calls his band His Fabulous Superlatives, which may strike you as a case of PR hyperbole in band naming. It's not. Stuart's three backing musicians are just as essential as is its leader. During this fully satisfying two-hour show, each Superlative sang two songs, and all performed excellently. Dressed in matching powder blue, sequined outfits, which resembled classic Nudie suits, guitarist (the hippie-esque) Kenny Vaughan, drummer Handsome Harry Stinson and straightlaced bassist Chris Scruggs added extra sonic color to an already colorful night of country and country/rock music.

Stuart fronted his three-piece outfitted in all black leather, topped by the diminutive man's perfect gray mane. He played acoustic and electric guitar as well as mandolin – most notably on a perfect, unaccompanied version of "Orange Blossom Special." Stuart is a walking, talking country music historian, so his between song patter was as informative as his music is entertaining. He sang his own songs, including "Tempted" and the jangly "Time Don't Wait," and his covers revealed deep reverence for country music icons. Artists honored tonight included songs by Haggard, Waylon, Willie and his namesake, Marty Robbins.

He may be an unabashed country music devotee, but Stuart also worked in surf music, bluegrass ("Get Down on Your Knees and Pray") and even an encore with The Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction," which found him doing a little shaky, shivery dance. Although highlights were many, the gentle acoustic instrumental outro that concluded his take on Willie Nelson's "Me and Paul" was truly intoxicating.

Stinson beautifully rendered Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd" during his spotlight, while Scruggs swung mightily (plucking a standup bass, no less) during Bob Wills' "Brain Cloudy Day." Somewhat ironically, Vaughan's "Country Music Got a Hold On Me" found the lanky guitarist sounding to be more under the spell of Chuck Berry.

Stuart only played one new song, but it was a winner. "Sitting Alone," written during Covid, jangled like a Byrds-meets-Beatles gem, and featured Vaughan chiming along on a red Rickenbacker. Expect that one to make it onto whatever recorded project Stuart has planned next.

This crowd at the intimate La Mirada Theatre sounded to be populated by many Stuart diehards. Patrons cheered loudly and often. With good reason, too, because Stuart filled the relatively small room with plenty of variety and sonic thrills. It was, indeed, a fabulously superlative evening of music.



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