by Eric Parker –

In case anyone forgot about country music, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives reminded us the sound can still twang and the costumes can still shimmer, with his 11th Annual Late Night Jam last night (6/6) at the Ryman Auditorium.

The audience at the Mother Church distinctly differed from the crowds bleeding from the exits of the Bridgestone Arena after the CMT Awards. But once the music began at Stuart’s MusiCares and Keep the Music Playing benefit, the one common denominator that brings us all to CMA Fest was apparent — love for Country music.

The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira” started the Ryman’s roof dancing from the simmering crowd, which lasted all evening.

Emcee Eddie Stubbs supported the mood, “You will see many concerts this week for CMA Fest, but this will be the best show.”

As for Stuart and his leather bell-bottom pants and jacked-to-Jesus pompadour hairdo, he set the bar for performers at the show saying, “Anyone who sings at this microphone tonight is either a legend, icon or American legend.”

Stuart gave a salute to the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Bakersfield Sound exhibit invited Buck Owens’ longtime drummer Willie Cantu to the stage for a revival of “Sam’s Place.”

Speaking of the Hall, its newest member Connie Smith was brought to the stage by her husband to sing a mixture of hits including “Once a Day.” “These people have just heard the Rolls Royce of Country music…that was ammonia strength Country,” Stubbs praised after the performance.

Stonewall Jackson thanked the police for his escort against the crowds outside before singing “That’s Why I’m Walkin,’” and a “Life to Go,” which he co-wrote with George Jones. “Once you get him out here, he can just keep going,” said Stuart of the legend after he received a standing ovation.

The Chuck Wagon Band and anxious bride-to-be, Wynonna, brought the evening’s guest appearances to a close before Stuart and his band returned to the stage a final time, fresh from a costume change.

After all, when Manuel has a seat in the front row within eyes’ reach of rhinestones, you had better not only sound good, but look it too.

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