Review - Travis Tritt & Marty Stuart
Party of Two
Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Nov. 16
There was no pedal-steel player onstage. Or a fiddler, or a lanky bassist standing alongside a drummer. And definitely no cowboy hats. But there were the familiar themes of heartbreak, whiskey, lives gone wrong, and the rural lifestyle last Sunday night at the Troy Music Hall when Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart, two of country’s greatest singers, sat down on two stools placed before five lava lamps and played a straight-up acoustic show on flattop guitars and mandolin. This was not a look backwards to country’s unplugged roots in the 1920s and ’30s, though—the music, which now mentions things like trading heifers online, has moved on.
their picking prowess, the Georgia-born Tritt, wearing leather pants and
a black shirt, and the Mississippian Stuart, attired in blue jeans and a
black Western shirt, began their single extended set with an untitled
uptempo instrumental guitar duet. Their solos centered around an E
chord, the most hard-edged sound a guitar can make. Tritt played
up-the-neck leads more typical of an electric guitarist, while Stuart,
who ultimately proved the better picker (a musical whiz kid, Stuart
debuted at the Grand Ole Opry at age 13), displayed more of a bluegrass
influence in his breaks.
Tritt, with more than 30 Billboard hits to his credit, followed with lead vocals on the love ballad “Feeling like a Fool,” and his gruff, powerful pipes recalled rocker Bob Seger. Stuart led next on his “Now That’s Country,” an affectionate ode to shotguns, groundhogs, pickup trucks, and front-porch rocking chairs. His singing was cleaner in tone and more rockabilly sounding than Tritt’s gritty style. Stuart continued his celebration of the bucolic existence with Tritt’s “Where Corn Don’t Grow,” a tearful tale of a son’s failed attempt to talk his overworked father out of farming (corn, though, is never in short supply in country songs).
Later, both men took turns performing solo, with Tritt contributing songs including “Country Ain’t Country Anymore,” a protest against encroaching development and a younger generation’s embrace of city-slicker ways. Stuart then delivered, among other tunes, a thumping “Hillbilly Rock,” and a breathtaking unaccompanied bluegrass mandolin instrumental.
The pair closed with Stuart’s song of pathos and booze, “The Whiskey Ain’t Working Anymore,” and encored with the Carter Family classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
Country music may be an endless procession of tractors and back 40s, honky-tonks and long-gone wives, and times not being what they once were, but Tritt and Stuart’s stellar picking and singing made it fun.
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