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June 10, 2013

The four-hour, late-night show includes songs from Bobby Bare, the Oak Ridge Boys, others.

While the CMT Music Awards celebrated the most popular contemporary country music Wednesday, Marty Stuart threw a celebration for the lovers of more traditional styles.

Guests for the Nashville show, an unofficial lead-in to the CMA Music Festival for 12 years, ranged from the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, which features a banjo player not yet in his teens, to 90-year-old fiddler Don Maddox, the last surviving member of the Maddox Brothers & Rose, one of the most popular hillbilly bands of the World War II era.

"There's just one rule," Stuart told the Ryman Auditorium audience after a three-song opening set that included his 1989 hit Hillbilly Rock and a cover of the late Del Reeves' 1968 single Looking at the World Through a Windshield. "Do you trust me?"

The Jam, which lasted nearly four hours, boasted legendary country acts like Bobby Bare, the Oak Ridge Boys and Stuart's wife, Connie Smith, as well as newcomers with a traditional bent, including Mo Pitney, whose I Met Merle Haggard Today turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser.

The night ranged from honky-tonk to gospel to bluegrass and back, with comic bits between Stuart and emcee Eddie Stubbs mixed in. Jamey Johnson made an unannounced appearance, singing Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, backed by the Oak Ridge Boys. "Jamey surprised us," Stuart said afterward. "It's a light. You never know."

After The Mavericks played a few songs, frontman Raul Malo serenaded Nashville designer Manuel, who was celebrating a birthday, with the country standard (I'd Be) A Legend in My Time.

The event raises money each year for MusiCares, which provides a financial safety net for members of the music community in need.