Newport This Week

A Love Affair with Country Music



Sometimes, a little encouragement is all it takes to keep a young musician grinding it out. When Nashville-based country performers The Malpass Brothers were discouraged while touring with Merle Haggard, something the music legend told them made all the difference.

“Merle once told me when I was down and thinking of quitting, ‘Anyone can swing a hammer, but only a chosen few get to do what you are doing,’” Chris Malpass said. “He was so wise, and I often wish he was still here for that kind of encouragement.”

Chris, along with his brother, Taylor, who will make their first visit to Newport on Oct. 21, tour the country non-stop, performing traditional country music. It’s a calling they take quite seriously.

“It truly is a mission, and we feel so much respect and responsibility to keep the music alive,” Chris said. “It must be done with respect for the ones who came before us.

“This music is honest and grabs the heart. It can make you feel every emotion, and it’s so relatable. Every song we sing we do because the lyrics do something to us and for us. It’s truly American music.”

Mark Gorman is a retired high school guidance counselor and avid guitarist-vocalist.

Mark Gorman is a retired high school guidance counselor and avid guitarist-vocalist.

Their love affair with traditional country music can be traced to their grandfather. “Our dad’s father ran a little bar in the town where we grew up . . . and he taught us to play the classic songs from the jukebox, which was ever-present in his bar. It developed a deep passion for this music even as kids and it’s never faded,” Malpass said.

When they were still quite young, the brothers had the good fortune to tour with Hank Williams’ steel guitar player, Don Helms, for three years. Following that, they teamed up with Haggard for seven years, and that cemented their passion for playing to live audiences.

“We love touring, and the more the better,” he said. “Touring is very tough on our bodies at times and emotionally taxing as we miss our family, but it’s so important to be out doing this music and keeping our face in front of fans. Without the fans, we are nothing.”

Their music is steeped in the legacy of Williams, the Louvin Brothers, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, and others. And they’ll often mix in a couple of old-time gospels, along with some of their originals.

They’ve played alongside many of the greats, and have appeared at Merlefest, The Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman Auditorium and too many concert halls to list. A quick glance at their hectic tour schedule makes them look like the busiest band in show business. And they have great music chops, as evidenced by the fact that Taylor is endorsed by Gretsch Guitars.

“We are super excited to be [playing] Newport for the first time,” Chris said.

Opening for The Malpass Brothers will be Retro Country Experience. For tickets, visit

To Go:

When: Friday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m.

Where: Newport Playhouse and Cabaret Theater

Admission: $35

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