Tag Archives: Earl Scruggs

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Marty Stuart Pays Homage to California Country at Bowery Ballroom

April 27th, 2017

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2017


Marty Stuart is old school country good—it’s right there in the title of his band. Raised in Mississippi, entranced with the likes of Buck Owens and Marty Robbins, Stuart came to renown as a guitarist with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash before he broke out as a solo artist, favoring a high-energy country, roots and Americana sound that feels classic but not overly nostalgic. The essence of his 18th album, the outstanding Way Out West, is also right there in the title: Stuart loves the mythology of the American West, the panoramic dreams and wide-open-desert terrors it can evoke and the range of moods that music flavored with these things can inspire.

Lest it seem like Stuart and his crackerjack band will get lost in the cinematic sweep of things, however, they definitely don’t: They’re as fun, foot-stomping and down-to-earth good a country band as any New York City can attract. Over an hour and a half at The Bowery Ballroom last night, they plumbed the best of Way Out West and served up hefty helpings of Stuart chestnuts and roots-music staples, from ancient stuff like “I Know You Rider,” “Orange Blossom Special,” “Country Boy Rock & Roll” and Robbins’ “El Paso,” to ripping, surf-leaning instrumentals like “Mojave” and “Torpedo,” newer tunes like the honky-tonk “Whole Lotta Highway” and Stuart classics like “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.” They’re storytellers, string-benders, good-time Charlies who can acquit a twangy reworking of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and make it feel like a deep cut from a Best of the Bakersfield Sound compilation.

Stuart is the proverbial “name on the door,” but it’s the Fabulous Superlatives who get at least as much of the spotlight, claiming at least one solo vocal or instrumental performance apiece. Among them, Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Chris Scruggs (yep, grandson of Earl) cover guitar, bass, drums and plenty of other things, but, like Stuart, are best described as multi-instrumentalists for how seamlessly—and how musically—they inhabit whatever they’re playing or singing. That’s key: Beneath the wisecracks and convivial joy, the foursome exhibit a deep trust and abiding gratitude for this music and their ability to play it so magnificently. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

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Willie Watson Sells Out Rough Trade NYC on Friday Night

January 12th, 2015

Willie Watson – Rough Trade NYC – January 9, 2015

WillieWatson_photobyMonkeyBird
Sellouts are always special, but there was something even more rewarding about the packed house for Friday’s Rough Trade NYC bill. That a guy like Willie Watson with a guitar and a banjo, playing a set of songs that had been around longer than everyone in attendance had been alive—numbers that felt older than dirt—could draw such a large, spirited crowd to Williamsburg was emblematic of something. It said something about the timelessness of the music, of course, the folk tradition that will outlive us all, but it was also indicative of the guy playing them: He looked the part and sounded the part. Watson doesn’t just play these songs, he breathes life into them.

Following a raucous, raunchy, keep-your-eye-out-for-this-one opening set from Elle King, Watson took the stage, banjo in hand, wearing a denim shirt and jeans and a hat that added the perfect look to the sounds he was about to make. He opened with a one-two hootenanny of “Georgia Buck” and “Free Little Bird,” which put him in league with Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson respectively. The audience was transported, stomping the floor in time, evoking a barn dance more than a rock club.

Watson pulled some of the songs from last year’s Folk Singer Vol. 1, but mostly he seemed to be reaching back in time, the entire Americana songbook at his disposal. Highlights included Blind Willie McTell’s “Rollin’ Mama Blues” with some nice hand-shucked guitar picking, and an excellent version of a “new one,” Reverend Gary Davis’s “I Belong to the Band, Hallelujah.” Wrapping up a stellar night of singing and dancing, Watson capped the set with Lead Belly’s “Midnight Special” before an encore of traditionals, “Good Old Mountain Dew” and “On the Road Again.” You get the impression that a campfire, a bottle of whiskey, Willie Watson and his guitar would be just about a perfect Friday night. Who knows? He might even be able to sell out a gig like that. —A. Stein | @Neddyo