The Weekend in review: Oblivian, Stuart and fingertips | Rock Candy

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Weekend in review: Oblivian, Stuart and fingertips

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 6:09 PM

Similarly outfitted, but less rockin'.

Ideally, this kind of thing would come early in the day, but today's been full with paper-related duties, so better late than never:

Damn fine: Friday, I caught the tail end of the Thomas Jones Duo at White Water. Jones is an Arkansas native, a big defensive lineman of a man who used to play guitar with Cedell Davis. He's still playing dirty blues, working a slide like a champ and roaring out standards about shaking, women trouble and the like. I'll be showing up early next time he's through. The headliners, Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, lived up to their reputation. Their garage-rock could get good and grimy — there was lots of quick head-nodding and foot-pounding — but it was really tuneful, too, incorporating all sorts of disparate, weirdo Memphis culture. Guitar whiz Travis Wammack got a shout out and, late in the set, the band did an impressive version of Booker T. and the M.G.'s "Time is Tight."

Glad I missed it: At Cool Shoes at Downtown Music on Friday, a friend waiting in line for the bathroom reports seeing a pool of blood and soon thereafter being politely asked by a young dude, "Can I go first? My friend lost part of his finger." Apparently, the finger came off in an inadvertent door slam. Yikes! No word if the tip came back.

The best concert I've seen all year: Marty Stuart played the Old State House on Saturday.  Like the best televangelists, he looked like someone who deserved to be up front, which is to say fairly outrageous. But when he spoke, in the deep, dulcet twang of someone from Mississippi, his aw-shucks charisma made us forget that he was wearing black leather pants, more foundation than Joan Rivers and a mullet-pompadour combo that looked less styled than shocked.

Stuart’s collection of country music memorabilia, “Sparkle and Twang," is on exhibit at the Old State House, and he added to that history by telling stories between nearly every other song. Like any good storyteller, he knew his audience. He called out “silver-haired beauty” Maxine Brown, famous for singing in the Browns and someone he said treated him like family when he was a teen-ager playing mandolin in Lester Flatt’s band. Later, he dropped the word “Tyson” in a song with a chicken reference — Don Tyson, who bankrolled at least part of the event was sitting at a table by the front of the stage. Even the anonymous faces in the 250-person crowd felt pangs of recognition as Stuart told tales about playing Mountain View, BJ’s Star-Studded Honky Tonk and Jimmy Doyle’s Country Club, where he said a tin sign over the interstate announced a performance by Marty “Stewart” and stayed up two months after he played.

Then there was the sangin,’ which flitted through the history of 20th century roots music. There was bluegrass, of course, like the Bill Monroe instrumental number “Rawhide,” and some of that swingin’ hillbilly that Stuart was famous for in the early days of his solo career. Stuart played Jimmie Driftwood’s “Tennessee Stud” for the first time. More unexpected was a blue-eyed soul version of “With Body and Soul” (another Monroe classic), a country-surf instrumental that sounded like the Ventures at the Ryman and covers of songs by the Stones and Tom Petty.

Stuart spent most of the night on the mandolin, an instrument he often plays so fast his hands blur. His band, the Superlatives — guitarist “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan, stand-up bassist “the Apostle” Paul Martin and drummer “Handsome” Harry Stinson — was crack, as good as any national backing unit I've seen. Befitting the intimacy of the hall, they kept it acoustic. Stinson played a snare on a strap around his neck with brushes. Everyone harmonized.

Tickets were $35, which is pretty steep for a lot of us. Weather the expense next time.

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