Annual country roots and Americana weekend The Long Road Festival took place again on the August Bank Holiday at Stanford Hall. Fifteen thousand cowboy hats and pairs of boots turned their eyes and ears to The Rhinestone Stage on Saturday night, where Chris Young was due to play – only thanks to Covid, he didn’t. Instead, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives and three special guests treated them to a double set, a considerably more favourable trade.
Legend Marty Stuart has been touring with his Fabulous Superlatives since 2002, having started with Johnny Cash in the 80s. If anyone knows how to put on a double-length show at short notice, it’s him. He kicked off the show with the instrumental song ‘Graveyard‘ where “Cousin Kenny”, a tall man with a pale, sparkly suit and a telecaster, sets the scene for a showcase of great talent. “Cousin Kenny” is Kenny Vaughan. The latter has been a Fabulous Superlative since the start and toured previously with Lucinda Williams. Having trained with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell his skill is apparent from the first bar. The set then bounced from Rockabilly songs like ‘Tear The Woodpile Down‘ in which all members sang, to a new song ‘, Sittin’ Alone‘, which had a more 60’s sound, and ‘Tempted‘, which has a crooner vibe. The variety of styles shows the length and breadth of the band’s tenure. It was still surprising when drummer Harry Stinson announced that he was “going surfing” and played ‘Mojave‘ and ‘La Tingo Tango‘! Reminding the crowd of his time with Johnny Cash, Stuart played ‘Ring of Fire‘ with reverence to such a classic and a cheeky glint of his flair.
To lengthen the set, guitarist Kenny Vaughan played two of his songs from the album ‘V‘, ‘Country Music Got A Hold On Me‘ and ‘Hot Like That‘. His high voice is strikingly in contrast to his appearance. Next, bassist “Professor” Chris Scruggs took centre stage. His grandfather is bluegrass banjo wizard Earl Scruggs – Marty Stuart toured with Lester Flatt of Flatt and Scruggs before going solo. Scruggs played a rock n roll classic showing his musical pedigree, showmanship, and great voice.
The first of the special guests was Nashville scenester, Andrew Combs. Stuart seemed to have a genuine affection for the guitarist from Texas, and the pair appeared to have a real connection. Combs and he played ‘Too Stoned to Cry‘, a song which hit the crowd right in the feels. Next up was Kezia Gill. Introduced as “Kez-aye-ya” by Stuart, the Nottingham woman responded naturally and confidently to sharing a stage with a titan of the scene. Gill blasted out ‘These Boots are Made for Walking‘ and was joined by Stuart on guitar. To finish the extraordinary guest slots, Sunny Sweeney asked, “How about some Waylon Jennings?” The audience roared their approval. The pair played ‘Good Hearted Woman‘, getting the viewers to sing the chorus, which they did into the night.
Finally, perhaps playing for time, Stuart retold the story of meeting the writer of ‘Orange Blossom Special‘ before playing it expertly on the mandolin. A perfect end to a showcase of skill and aplomb.