Country music’s Marty Stuart returns to Lexington on January 13.

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Marty Stuart was the last major touring act to perform at the Lexington Opera House ahead of the March 2020 pandemic shutdown. Although he has been largely off the road, he has not been idle.

As seems to be the case every time Marty Stuart comes to town, there is a grocery list of topics to discuss. All of them reflect a myriad of projects and events that make the veteran stylist, conductor and country music historian one of the most prolific artists of his genre and generation.

Before a return concert at Lexington Opera House with its long-running Fabulous Superlatives combo on January 13, there’s a cauldron of activity to talk about – a late 2020 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, an ongoing collection of digital covers titled “Songs I Sing in the” Dark, ”a celebratory collaboration with personal heritage filmmaker Ken Burns titled the Honor Your Home Town campaign and fundraising for – and building – a comprehensive museum and cultural arts center in the city native of Stuart in Philadelphia, Mississippi, called the Country Music Congress.

But there is a hotter topic that Stuart wants to tackle first, one sparked by his upcoming visit to Lexington.

“Before we start you all lost JD Crowe up there, haven’t you? “

Stuart’s admiration for Crowe dates back to the late 1950s music that Lexington native and banjo pioneer made with bluegrass ancestor Jimmy Martin. This is hardly surprising given Stuart’s scientific mastery of musical history – a fact underscored by the extensive on-screen source information he provided to Burns’ 2019 documentary series, ” Country Music “.

“I think one of the things other than his playing that sets Crowe apart is what he did with Jimmy Martin. I mean, he could have stopped there. But what was always so cool about JD was that he came from that old lineage, that old mainline, but he was also a touchstone for young people. JD has walked these two worlds without any sweat. It was pretty cool.

Stuart’s connection to Central Kentucky is not limited to his devotion to Crowe’s music. His last concert in Lexington fell on March 7, 2020, also at the Opera. He was the last renowned artist on a nationwide tour to perform at a local venue before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a global lockdown that silenced all avenues in the performing arts. But as one would expect from an artist who continually juggles multiple projects, Stuart has hardly been idle during the lockdown. Well, at least not at first.

“Well, first of all, I enjoyed the free time because I haven’t really been home much. I mean, 1987, I think, was slow. But beyond that, from 1972, I haven’t been home much at all. Basically it was nonstop, so spending time with Connie (Smith, veteran country singer and wife of Stuart for 24 years) was wonderful. But it also opened up a lot of time to create. The shelves are now stocked for probably the next two or three years with records, books, museum projects, the development of a cultural center, and so on. Time has been put to good use. Once the rest period was over… after that time was put to good use.

“The only thing missing was the road. I didn’t really realize how much I had missed the road until we hit it again. We were playing in St. Augustine with Jason Isbell. I walked out during his soundcheck and thought, “I’ll never take this for granted again.” It was a wonderful feeling to be back.

Among the many projects initiated by Stuart during the lockdown that are just starting to surface:

“Songs I Sing in the Dark”, a digital-only cover collection (for now). Stuart has known and loved for years that he records with minimal production.

“This one is surely a product of the pandemic. It started before the vaccines were approved, so I knew the group wouldn’t get back together then. My sound engineer Mick Conley started recording these songs just as something to do. There are 20 cut songs and live videos. That’s probably enough for a while. It’s time to turn the page and move on now. But it served me well because it touched a piece of my heart and soul that I had wanted to tap into for a long time.

“Country Music Congress” – “That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m on I-65 South heading to Philadelphia, Mississippi. The Ellis Theater (designed as a key part of the cultural center) is undergoing renovations, so I’ll find out about that. He is now heading into phase two. It’s my life’s work. This is my life sentence. I will do this for the rest of my life. And that’s fine with me.

“Honor Your Hometown Campaign” – “I love everything Ken (Burns) and his team are involved in. The bottom line is this: when you talk to someone from their hometown, regardless of their political or spiritual belief. from, people usually light up, look in the eyes, and tell you a story. And that’s what we wanted to capture.

Then there’s the one event that happened during the lockdown that wasn’t planned – Stuart’s December 2020 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “My favorite part about it is that Connie inducted me. I later found out that we were the only married couple to ever have this honor. … George (Jones) and Tammy (Wynette) were not together when they entered. AP and Sara (Carter of the Carter family) are divorced. Boudleaux and Felice (Bryant, famous songwriters)… well, Boudleaux was gone when he was inducted. So it’s quite an honor.

As roadworks begin for Stuart in 2022 (March 13 at the Opera will be his first concert of the new year), another important and deeply constant aspect of his music comes into play: his collaboration with the Fabulous Superlatives. . Comprised of guitarist Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and bassist Chris Scruggs, the ingenious trio have been Stuart’s stage and studio band for two decades.

“It’s just getting better,” Stuart said of his work with Superlatives. “He keeps getting richer. It’s getting deeper and deeper. We love ourselves. We are brothers and yet there has never been an argument in the Superlative camp. We talk about things and sort them out. It’s just a once in a lifetime, divinely ordained life. And that’s the group. Our crew is the same. It’s just a small group and a team.

“Actually, you don’t need anything else.”

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Marty Stuart and his fabulous superlatives perform at the Lexington Opera House on January 13. Alysse Gafkjen

Marty Stuart and fabulous superlatives

When: January 13, 7:30 p.m.

Or: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Court

Tickets: $ 59.50 to ticketmaster.com.

COVID Policy: This performance requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent COVID test to attend.

This story was originally published January 4, 2022 6:00 a.m.

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