Tritt was filling in for the late, great Porter Wagoner who sadly succumbed to cancer just a few weeks after it was announced that he and longtime friend Stuart (who also produced Wagoners' final, universally praised, 2007 comeback LP) would share the stage at Trustees for an intimate acoustic set as part of the 2008 Savannah Music Fest. To say he rose to the occasion admirably would be a truism.
Tritt and Stuart are old pals who have collaborated in the past on each others' records as well as traveled together on the groundbreaking "No Hats Tour", which helped usher in a new and more rock and pop oriented form of country music that unfortunately wound up begetting the current crop of vapid, fiddle and pedal steel guitar-embellished schmaltz that gets marketed as so-called "country music" these days.
However, both of these men are avid disciples of country's true roots and it's legendary artists and traditions. All of that was on display last night as they ran through stripped-down versions of their own hits (both alone and together), as well as country and soul nuggets by some of their favorite artists (such as Waylon Jennings and Otis Redding).
Tritt stuck to acoustic guitar (and proved himself a PHENOMENALLY talented picker in a variety of styles), while Stuart swapped off between acoustic guitar, mandolin, and later, an electric guitar.
The entire show had the feel of a particularly spirited after-dinner jam session in the den of either of their homes. It was well-rehearsed, but equally off-the-cuff (with both of the two players and singers - whose voices blend together seemingly effortlessly in beautiful harmony - frequently cracking each other up with their own tricky, improvised solos), and is purported to be a one-time only show that they will not tour or repeat in any way, which made it all the more special to those of us lucky enough to witness it. At least one major country music television network was on hand to tape the first few songs for some sort of news story, but while the entire show was professionally captured on audio for posterity by the SMF itself, it's a downright shame the entire thing wasn't also shot with multiple cameras, as I could see it EASILY being a smash hit DVD for both artists.
The crowd was quite respectful and quiet (which bodes well for the quality of the audio recording) save for one lunkheaded jackass directly behind me.
To think that a grown man of at least 60 years of age would not only forget to silence his cell phone (or worse yet, CHOOSE to leave it on, in an act so self-centered and disrespectful to not only those around him but to the artists on-stage) boggled my mind. As if that weren't enough, his phone rang loudly and repeatedly during the emotional, whisper-quiet tribute song Stuart had composed for his dear friend (and former father-in-law) Johnny Cash. But what really took the cake was while half a dozen people turned to glare incredulously at the man, he not only took his time getting the phone out of his pocket (which only made it louder), but instead of instantly silencing it, HE ANSWERED IT WITH A LOUD AND COMPLETELY UNCONCERNED "HELLO?".
He entered into a loud conversation on the phone while sitting ninth row center at a packed theater show, in the middle of a quiet, acoustic, heartbreakingly personal tune in honor of the late Johnny Cash. Think it can't get any better than that? Well, when the older gentleman next to me whispered a plea to the man to stop what he was doing, the cell phone guy loudly and aggressively swore at him.
I'll be curious to find out if the sensitive microphones used to tape this show actually picked up this disgusting display of arrogance.
By the way, if the fellow with the phone happens to read this, feel free to get in touch so we can meet somewhere other than a quiet concert and I can throw numerous drinks in your face on behalf of everyone in the venue.