by Julian Spivey
Multiple-time Grammy Award winning country musician Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives headlined the sixth annual Cotter Bridge Bash at the Big Spring Park under the Cotter Bridge in rural Cotter, Ark. on Saturday, Sept. 25.
The Cotter Bridge Bash is a charity event held to raise food for the Food Bank of North Central Arkansas to feed those who are hungry and may not be able to provide meals for themselves throughout the north central region of the state. This year’s event was the first to bring in a name the size of Marty Stuart and it resulted in a record 500,000 meals donated.
Stuart and his incredibly talented band kicked off the 90-minute set with “I Know You Rider,” a traditional blues song that was popularized in many Grateful Dead sets. The performance instantly got the crowd, boiling in the hot 90-degree sun, energized and excited for the remainder of the show.
Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives do a terrific job at mixing originals in with country, folk, gospel and blues classics. If you love true country music you’re going to love a Marty Stuart show. He mixed his terrific hits like “The Whiskey Ain’t Working,” “Hillbilly Rock” and “Tempted,” my personal favorite, with excellently chosen covers like Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” since he was performing in his old friend’s home state. Speaking of which, when Stuart was ready to play a Cash song he pointed at me personally sitting up front with my Johnny Cash T-shirt on and asked, “which song should I play?” I shouted, “Folsom Prison Blues,” which is my favorite Cash song. Stuart said, “everybody plays that one” and then played “Ring of Fire,” which is probably even more well-known and played, but oh well – that was still a cool moment for me.
One of the most fascinating moments of Stuart’s show was his story of once meeting Ervin T. Rouse, writer of the great fiddle tune “Orange Blossom Special,” late in Rouse’s life when Stuart was traveling with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt as a teenager in the early ‘70s. Stuart then performed the song and in a moment that can only be considered a bit of country music magic a train passed by on the track right beside the Cotter Bridge mid-song.
The entire Fabulous Superlatives group is not only instrumentally perfect, but all talented vocalists who get the chance to shine on the microphone during the show. “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan, one of the best guitarists in the music biz, took over vocals on “Country Music Got a Hold On Me” and “Nice Like That,” which truly entertained the crowd. Bassist and steel guitarist Chris Scruggs, the youngster of the group at 33-years old and the newest member of the band, has country music and bluegrass in his blood and bones as his grandfather was Earl Scruggs, who many consider to be the father of bluegrass music. Drummer “Handsome” Harry Stinson was probably the best vocalist of the group, outside of Stuart of course, with lead vocals on Johnny Horton’s “All for the Love of a Girl” and Woody Guthrie’s folk classic “Pretty Boy Floyd.”
Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives finished their great set with a rip-roaring performance of “Tear the Woodpile Down” before ending the show, as they always do, with a couple of gospel tunes.