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Double Trouble tour is thrice as good with Tritt, Stuart, Loveless

Great Woods, Mansfield, Mass., June 23, 1996

By Jeffrey B. Remz

MANSFIELD, MA - The tour is being billed as the Double Trouble tour

But Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart, once again reviving their musical magic, encountered much competion Sunday from overpowering opener Patty Loveless and to a much lesser extent, Diamond Rio.

Stuart was really the greatest sparkplug all night with his over-the-top set.

The year-long tour follows by three years, Tritt and Stuart's outings following the success of "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' Anymore." In their new venture, the two quickly clicked from the get-go.

Tritt joined Stuart's band at the outset of his set with the hit and title track of Stuart's fine new CD, "Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best." At one point, Stuart referred to Tritt as "my brother."

It was easy to understand why.

They just seemed so in sync singing "Honky Tonkin's" along with "Shelter From the Storm" which they performed on barstools at the edge of the night with Tritt's lead guitarist Wendell Cox and bassist Jon Bonnette, "This One's Gonna Hurt You" before slamming home the long evening at the end of Tritt's set with "Hard Times and Misery, "Whiskey" and "Double Trouble."

Each clearly held the other in great esteem with Stuart's guitar playing and the vocal interplay between the two the highlights.

There was far more to the evening, a WBCS anniversary party, than Stuart and Tritt together.

Patty Loveless got the evening started off with an hour-long set that was on target throughout. Loveless seemed far more confident in the outdoor shed than a previous indoor arena affair.

Loveless' strength is the sincerity of her clear-sounding, vibrant voice. She infuses songs of heartbreak ("A Thousand Times a Day," her current single, "The Trouble With the Truth" and "Here I Am") with feeling time and again. Loveless shines on ballads inwhich she shows her traditional country roots. She also showed she could sing uptempo ("You Will" and "Half Way Down") and rock songs.

This has been a big year for Loveless, winning several major country awards and releasing an excellent album. With a few more warm performances like this, she ought to soar even higher.

Diamond Rio has been riding high on the chats with a few hit singles from their new disc, "IV," but it took the band about half a set to get into gear.

The songs played were pleasant enough, but just did not cut deep. The playing seemed far too uninspired, rarely breathing life into the arrangements ("In a Week or Two" and "Love a Little Stronger.")

The group finally seemed to connect starting with "Workingmen's Blues," a song they did for a Merle Haggard tribute album. Lead singer Marty Roe shared lead vocals with Dana Williams and Gene Johnson, who also spiced numerous songs with his mandolin chops.

The band kicked it home with "Walkin' Away" and "Norma Jean Riley."

Vocal harmonies with Johnson and Williams aiding Roe worked wonderfully throughout the hour-long set. Roe has a good enough voice to lead, but was a bit too calculated in his stage presence.

Band members, particularly guitarist Jimmy Olander, can play, but one got the sense they were too confined and more content to stick with what the fans already knew on an evening in which the three other acts clearly were superior.

Stuart did not need to rely on Tritt to power his set. He only had to turn to his new disc and one crack band in a scorching appearance that rarely let up.

The songs are uniformly top notch, whether in the trademark upbeat Stuart mold ("Country Girls" and "Rocket Ship") or ballads ("Thanks to You")

And he has a worthy catalogue from which to cull as well with "Kiss Me I"m Gone" proving to be superior to the recorded version, and "That's Country" particular highlights.

The beauty of Stuart was that he did not rely on rehashing his songs note for note. He clearly had mucho confidence in his band - Brad Davis on guitar, Steve Arnold on bass, powerhouse drummer Gregg Stocki and Gary Hogue on pedal steel - to reinvent and stretch out the songs.

And while Stuart's voice is not particularly strong, even there he proved up to the task.

Tritt was far superior to his last appearance at Great Woods. With a new album, "The Restless Kind," due out in August, Tritt may be heading in a new direction.

For starters, the need to overemphasize his outlaw status was severely downplayed. No motorcycle entrance or NashVegas set designs (for the most part anyway).

The Lynyrd Skynyrd connection also was downplayed in favor of more of a blues, simpler rock approach with harp often employed to energize the songs.

Tritt seemed to be heading to a more laid back, more traditional country feel. The new songs - Tritt played eight in all - possessed a softer feel. Fiddle player Tim Passmore added nice touches throughout.

While the new songs sounded fine (particularly the title track, a Mike Henderson song), the audience was hamstrung in not knowing the songs at all.

That may not have been the smartest move commercially by Tritt, give him credit at least for doing something a little different. In other words, he did not only trot out the hits.

"Tell Me I Was Dreaming" was the highlight of Tritt's performance with his heartfelt vocals in a song of great despair. Cox's guitar licks were on target in a song filled with drama.

With three definite hits out of four in an evening of 4 1/2 hours of music, fans should more than welcome this case of Double Trouble.

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