Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart
Afterward, though, we talked at length about all the things we liked about them. Earle's Iris DeMent-like little-girl voice and Stuart's high tenor blend better than most male-female duos; their voices not so much melding into one sound, as many good harmony singers achieve, but each retaining its own distinct timbre while enhancing the other. We raved about Stuart's guitar playing: no flashy, many-notes-per-minute pyrotechnics, but instead impressively clean, satisfying accompaniments and leads--and visually unique. He plays bass lead lines by reaching across the top of his guitar neck with his left hand, rather than fretting the strings in the conventional manner, curling from beneath the neck. It looks different, and, while it shouldn't affect the sound, it somehow manages to. He maneuvers so smoothly from note to note that his instrument often sounds like a Dobro or pedal steel guitar, even when he's not using a slide. He joked about having gone on an Atkins diet--Chet Atkins that is. Reminiscent of the master himself, he's got down pat the muffled, percussive alternating bass, with the clear-as-a-bell melody line ringing out above it. He even had the guts (I wanted to use another word, but this is a family paper) to play "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on acoustic guitar and make the song as compelling as--maybe even more compelling than--the electric original.