After two pandemic-induced years away, Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam returned to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday. The 19th edition of the CMA Fest week tradition in Music City featured guest appearances by Billy Strings, Marcus King, Emmylou Harris, and many more.

“It was a strange feeling for the past two years when the first Wednesday night in June rolled ’round and we didn’t have the Late Night Jam,” Stuart said to start the show, per Tennessean. “But we are rested. And we are ready.”

What followed was a marathon, three-hour concert that saw the rising stars of today share the stage with luminaries of bluegrass and country music. Along the way, the musicians helped themselves to host Marty Stuart’s extensive collection of historic instruments—which number over 20,000 total—playing guitars once owned and used by Johnny CashHank WilliamsGeorge Jones, and more. Proceeds from the sold-out Late Night Jam will go toward building Stuart’s Congress of Country Music, a soon-to-be-opened museum, theater, and educational space in his hometown of Philadelphia, MS.

Lainey Wilson made proper use of Williams’ 1939 Martin guitar (also used by Johnny Cash) on a cover of “Lost Highway” early on in the program, performing with Stuart’s backing band The Fabulous Superlatives. The evening also saw a double-dose of guitar wizardry with King and Strings each showing off a different school of playing. King performed his own “Wildflowers & Wine” (per Stuart’s request) as well as a cover of Howlin’ Wolf‘s “Killing Floor”, mining the history of his blues-rock influence. Ahead of King, 26-year-old Georgia acoustic bluesman Jontavious Willis made his Ryman debut to a standing ovation.

Strings offered a decided change of pace with his acoustic homage to traditional country and bluegrass with takes on “Freight Train Boogie”, “Long Journey Home”, “Tennessee Stud”, and more. During his time on stage, Billy was joined on upright bass by his bandmate Royal Masat, who performed with the Fabulous Superlatives throughout the evening.

Related: Guests Pour In For Billy Strings’ Ryman Run: Bob Weir, Les Claypool, Ronnie McCoury, More [Photos/Videos]

Connie Smith played beside her husband Marty Stuart as the two paid tribute to the late Merle Haggard with “The Fugitive”. Between songs, the two shared stories about the pillar of outlaw country, including the last time they spoke to him before his death in 2016.

“The phone rang less than a week before he passed away and it was Merle, and I think he was calling to say ‘goodbye,'” Stuart said. “One of our gags was he would say, ‘Wrote a new song.’ I’d say, ‘Oh, what is it, Hag?’ This time, he said, ‘Wrote a new song. … it’s called My Last Escape.’ It got real quiet on my end of the phone.”

Smith added: “Marty talked to him a little while and he turned the phone to me … I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me, all that. He said, ‘I was talkin’ to Willie Nelson not here long ago. And I asked him: “Willie, what do you think of Marty Stuart?” And Willie said, “Well, he got Connie Smith, didn’t he?”‘”

Later on in the evening, Emmylou Harris took the opportunity to debut a new song, “Three Chords And The Truth”. The title is a reference to famed songwriter Harlan Howard‘s definition of country music. The evening closed with a performance from Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids, a family band Stuart discovered on YouTube during COVID’s shutdown of live music. The band comprised of several elementary school-aged children helped finish the show with a series of covers, including The Beatles‘ “Get Back”.

“This is a dream come true for us,” Clark said on stage. “My goodness.”

Check out a collection of fan-shot videos from Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam at Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday.

Marty Stuart, Lainey Wilson, Royal Masat – “Lost Highway” (Hank Williams) – 6/8/22

[Video: Tennessee Ed]

Marcus King – “Wildflowers & Wine” – 6/8/22

[Video: Tennessee Ed]

Marty Stuart, Marcus King – “Killing Floor” (Howlin’ Wolf) – 6/8/22

[Video: Tennessee Ed]

Marty Stuart, Billy Strings – “Long Journey Home” (Traditional) – 6/8/22

[Video: Tennessee Ed]

Marty Stuart, Billy Strings – “Tennessee Stud” (Jimmie Driftwood) – 6/8/22

[Video: Tennessee Ed]

Marty Stuart, Billy Strings – “Freight Train Boogie” (Rabon Delmore & Alton Delmore) – 6/8/22

[Video: MusicCityMadness]

Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris – “Three Chords And The Truth” (Debut) – 6/8/22

[Video: Go See Live Music]

Marty Stuart, Colt Clark And The Quarantine Kids – “Get Back” (The Beatles) – 6/8/22 

[Video: Duhders]

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[H/T JamBase]