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Marty Stuart and Del McCoury blow off steam

Brown Theatre, Louisville, Ky., December 1, 2007

Reviewed by C. Eric Banister

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Wrapping up a hectic year for both artists, Marty Stuart and Del McCoury both said they were ready to blow of some steam and that they did before a nearly sell-out crowd in the stately theatre.

In a rare acoustic performance, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives opened the show, which, at times, was reminiscent of the old country music television shows like the Wilburn Brothers or Porter Wagoner. Full of stories, great music and humor, the band kept the audience applauding and singing along.

After opening with a couple of songs from Stuart's repertoire, guitarist "Cousin" Kenny Vaughan stepped up to the mic for "Walk Like That" and the Rolling Stones's "It's All Over Now."

Stuart, mandolin in hand, stepped back to the mic to run through a few more of his hits including "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," "Hillbilly Rock" and "Tempted."

The Superlatives left the stage as Stuart stood alone in a lone spotlight where he began to relate the story of Johnny Cash's passing. Picking up a guitar he then performed the moving tribute to his ex-father-in-law, former employer and friend, "Dark Bird," still an unreleased gem.

After the applause began to subside, the Superlatives rejoined Stuart on stage. Stuart talked about Barry Gibb now being his new neighbor. With that, bass player "Brother" Brian Glenn stepped up to the microphone for a crowd-pleasing version of "Staying Alive."

Drummer "Handsome" Harry Stinson, who used two brushes and a single snare hung around his neck, took his turn in the spotlight during a three-song gospel segment with "I'm Working on a Building." Stinson had been providing harmony to Stuart all night, but showcased his high-crisp tenor here.

As a segue between bands, Ronnie McCoury joined Stuart as the two of them alone, mandolin versus mandolin, launched into "Bluegrass Breakdown."

After a brief intermission, the Del McCoury Band came out and proved why they have won the International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of the Year award 9 of the last 13 years.

Instead of a set list, McCoury took requests from the audience, moving the band through several of their popular songs like "Bluegrass Country," "'52 Black Vincent" and "Nashville Cats."

Each band member - Robbie McCoury on banjo, Alan Bartram on bass and Jason Carter on fiddle - took a turn in the spotlight to sing a solo.

Other songs, like "Asheville Turnaround," "Cheek to Cheek With the Blues" and "Travelin' Tear Drop Blues," were interspersed with instrumentals like "Hillcrest Drive," before wrapping up the show with a couple of gospel numbers.

To end the show, Ronnie switched to mandola for "My Love Will Not Change" showing why the band has been easily adopted by fans of jam bands. Before the second verse, the band began an extended jam featuring a lot of interplay between Carter and Ronnie. Midway through the jam, Stuart brought his mandolin out to join in and the jam continued for several more minutes before Del stepped in to sing the last verse.

With Stuart in the mix, the band ran through "Long Journey Home" and capped the evening with a high energy, double mandolin run through Bill Monroe's "Rawhide."

The crowd brought Stuart and McCoury back out and the duo performed the Monroe Brothers's "What Would You Give (In Exchange for Your Soul)," a fitting end to a fantastic Kentucky show.