- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

The Grand Ole Opry marked its 80th anniversary with down-home humor and lots of hot picking Sunday night.

“The Grand Ole Opry at the Kennedy Center — it’s happening for me,” said Travis Tritt, one of the stars of the two-hour show, the first big performance in the center’s three-week salute to country music.

The Grand Ole Opry, which has a 4,400-seat home theater on the outskirts of Nashville and a venerable live broadcast on WSM-AM 600, is making an unprecedented appearance at the Kennedy Center.

“I’ve watched it on television, and now I’m here,” Mr. Tritt said.

In front of the Opry’s trademark red barn backdrop and before about 2,400 fans, the country stars were making up for lost time.

Marty Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, got the evening rolling in the Concert Hall with blistering twin Telecaster leads, offering up “Homesick” and “Buckaroo,” the instrumental theme of Buck Owens, who died Saturday at age 76.

Rebecca Lynn Howard sang her goose-bump-inducing ballad “Forgive” and her rocking pop-country tune “Everybody Gotta Have Somebody” with Mr. Stuart’s band.

The Del McCoury Band sang “Adios,” the ‘60s pop song “Nashville Cats” and the gospel quartet “Working on a Building” and closed with the Richard Thompson-penned “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” which has brought acclaim to the bluegrass band in folk and jam-band circles.

Mr. Stuart reappeared with a flat-top guitar to sing “Dark Bird,” his touching tribute to Johnny Cash.

Mr. Tritt performed his raucous “Modern-Day Bonnie and Clyde” and “I See Me,” his song about parenthood from a father’s point of view, before calling Mr. Stuart to the stage for “The Whiskey Ain’t Working,” written by Mr. Stuart and recorded by Mr. Tritt.

Mr. Stuart got out his mandolin and brought Ronnie McCoury to the stage for a duet on Bill Monroe’s “Rawhide,” and host Eddie Stubbs appeared with his fiddle to lead the combined bands in “Orange Blossom Special.”

The ensemble was led by Mr. Tritt on banjo in the closing song, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

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