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Stuart honk tonks in honky tonk club

House of Blues, Cambridge, Mass., March 20, 1997

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MA - The conditions may have just about been ideal for seeing Marty Stuart.

A honky tonker in a honky tonk bar, the House of Blues, known far more for its blues music than country.

And Stuart showed that the setting was just right before a crowd of about 150 people in a special WKLB-sponsored show.

This was Stuart up close and personal. No Travis Tritt around. No big stage act like when he toured the sheds last summer. Just Stuart and his band of four in a cramped stage churning out their swampy form of country with bluegrass and rock thrown into the potpourri.

Stuart started off with a strong version of Merle Haggard's "Swingin' Doors," with its appropriate references to"honky tonks and a barstool."

"The only thing we came up here was to do some honky tonking here in Boston tonight," Stuart told the converted. With that, Stuart, playing acoustic guitar, lit into a new, unrecorded song, "Coming Down," a possibility for Stuart's next album. It was good to see Stuart not just rely on the tried and true.

Later in the evening, for example, he would play "Long Black Veil,' which he learned from ex-father in law Johnny Cash. The two played on Leno a few nights ago.

The hits - "Tempted," his recent single "You Can't Stop Love" "Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best," "This One's Gonna Hurt You (For a Long Long Time)" and probably the best of the lot, "Burn Me Down" - were all on the evening's menu, but Stuart mixed it up (the bluesy sounding "High On a Mountain Top"without becoming a human jukebox.

Stuart, dressed in black leather pants, jacket and shirt, is an able front man with his good looks and easy going personality. And he's a stellar musician as well, whether on guitar or mandolin, whichhe played during an encore song emphasizing his bluegrass roots.

Stuart remembered his first time in Boston was playing at a now defuct club a stone's throw away with Lester Flatt.

Stuart is capable enough when it comes to singing, althoug he sounded thin at times. "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'" sounded a bit too off-handed with not enough musical oomph, but at least, like most songs, Stuart did not mimic the recorded version.

Stuart's backing Rock and Roll Cowboys band also knows how play, led by stellar guitarist Brad Davis. Gary Hogue on pedal steel also waa a standout throughout. They weren't quite as smoking as when they hit Great Woods last summer, but they were still on target.

One wished for more of Stuart than his 70 minutes. In fact, a few songs before ending it, Stuart pledged, to "stay all night if you want us to. We've got nothing to do." Well, we've heard that oft-used line before, and Stuart once again proved it be untrue.

Of course, if the honky tonker stuck to his word, that would have been just fine.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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