Country’s Marty Stuart quietly toured Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music Museum on Sun-day afternoon. In late afternoon, he and His Fabulous Superlatives enthralled about 20 [VIP] fans at the Paramount in Bristol. They paid extra for the treat. Stuart welcomed bluegrass legend Paul Williams to the stage for a pair of bluegrass gospel classics. Upon a fan’s suggestion, Stuart concluded the VIP experience with a moving run through The Carter Family’s “Worried Man Blues.” Johnson City’s Bill and the Belles opened the evening at the Paramount. Their spirited 45-minute run included a superb “Carolina Sunshine Girl” and sassy “Finger Pointin’ Mama.”
Moments later, Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives strode to the bandstand, four men in black whose rumble proved wholly significant. From a country-soaked “Sundown in Nashville” to open the show through a blend of bluegrass and gospel, Stuart wore well his brand as country music’s renaissance man.
“Glad to be back to the home of country music,” Stuart said, “the Birthplace of Country Mu-sic.”
Highlights threaded song to song. Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and Jimmie Rodgers’ “Hobo’s Meditation” offered layers of Stuart’s well-established essence. His mandolin instrumental of “Orange Blossom Special,” punctuated with a spellbinding story about its creator, demonstrated Stuart’s virtuosity on the instrument.
Stuart, the benevolent boss, welcomed two songs each from the Superlatives. Best among them, Harry Stinson’s lead on Woody Guthrie’s ever-relevant “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “Deportee,” stirred a socially conscious pot from which America should taste.
“I feel bad,” Stuart said. “We kicked a lot of people out of going to church tonight.” So to the pulpit Stuart went. His congregation praised his and the Superlatives vocal acrobatics on “Just A Little Talk With Jesus.”“We’re having church now!” one fan yelled. Stuart continued through Bill Monroe’s “Angels Rock Me to Sleep.” Fervor undulated like a cloud rocking to and fro.
“Amen!” hollered another fan.
A thunderbolt whose charge echoed like a ghost welcomed from the dark, Stuart led a charge that lifted up his heroes as well as his own rich catalog. Yeah, church was in on Sunday night. He praised God and Bristol and country music with a musical kiss of thanks and love almighty.