Marty Stuart | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Marty Stuart 

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Marty Stuart's reverence for country music history is apparent in everything he does: from traveling in Ernest Tubb's old tour bus to his pompadour and his penchant for ornate suits by Manuel (protege of legendary country costumer Mudie). The postmodern world has heaped a load of self-consciousness on country dabblers, but Stuart is one guy who can claim (and often does in his lyrics) a rightful place alongside the old guard. Stuart cut his chops at 13 as mandolinist and guitarist for bluegrass legend Lester Flatt, and followed up with a gig as guitar slinger for Johnny Cash, but even with this flawless pedigree breaking into a solo career proved tough. Dropped from his first label in the 80s after disappointing sales and hitting a personal slump after a failed marriage to Cash's daughter Cindy, Stuart finally reemerged with 1989's Hillbilly Rock, a salute to country's surly past, followed up by Tempted. But those two albums sound like practice compared to his current release, This One's Gonna Hurt You, a blistering, blues-drenched country tour de force composed of equal parts Sun-era rockabilly, hard Tubb honky-tonk, and Roy Acuff-style mountain lamentation. But with all this--plus plenty of fiddle, Dobro, and mandolin--there's also a big, modern production sound here dominated by crunching electric guitars. Surrounded by such audacious music, Stuart's voice comes down a little on the thin side, and lyrically he risks the sin of too much self-reference. But this is nitpicking. Besides, country has been long overdue for a serious, contemporary artist who still knows how to wear his Aqua Net. Sunday, 4 PM, Star Plaza Theatre, I-65 and U.S. 30, Merrillville, Indiana; 734-7266.

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