Ready To Go
Bryan SuttonSHCD-3906 Sugar Hill Records
P.O. Box 55300
Durham, NC 27717-5300
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
About three years ago, Ricky Skaggs introduced a hot young guitar picker to bluegrass audiences as part of his own return to bluegrass music. Bryan Sutton's jaw-dropping, machine gun fire of notes got him some instant notoriety, and he has been known for it ever since. He followed up on this success by striking out on his own, mostly as a studio musician and concert "pinch hitter." Sutton was a key part of Bela Fleck's recent Bluegrass Sessions tour in the fall of 1999, when the legendary Tony Rice couldn't make the trip. Those were some big shoes to fill.
With his debut recording, Ready To Go, Sutton shows us his many sides, not only his rapid-fire approach to bluegrass lead guitar. The CD does lead off, however, with Sutton's trademark approach in Decision At Glady Fork, a spanking instrumental with some help from Skaggs on mandolin, Aubrie Haynie on fiddle, Rob Ickes on Dobro, and Dennis Crouch, who provides fine bass throughout the recording. Of the few vocal numbers, Pat Enright from the Nashville Bluegrass Band was enlisted to sing the now classic bluegrass song Blue Night. Next is Bill Monroe's Brown County Breakdown, which starts out with a slow, understated guitar melody from Sutton that threw me off at first. What is actually taking place on the track is Sutton creating a rock-solid pace so that the other pickers are given their chance to shine. Ron Block of Alison Krauss & Union Station fame handles banjo on the track, with David Harvey on mandolin. Highland Rim is a great tune in the flat pick style with some hot fiddle from Haynie, banjo from Mike Snyder, and phenomenal mandolin playing from a mystery artist not listed in the notes. Most likely it is Harvey, but stylistically it reminds me of Sam Bush, who is not listed as a participant.
When Love Comes To Town brings yet another great stylistic shift into bluesier territory. The song originally appeared on Rattle & Hum by the rock group U2, originally incorporating some assistance from B.B. King. King's influence is the most prevalent in this funky version, with some amazing Dobro from Jerry Douglas, and lead vocals from Jeff White. Soothing tones greet us next with Walk Among The Woods, once again showcasing Douglas' Dobro and influence reminiscent of the Strength In Numbers band. It seems to be a trend that more and more bluegrass artists are opting to record the jazzier side of things made popular at the edge of the genre by David Grisman. In Grappeli/Reinhardt's Minor Swing, we are treated to a great beat-driven version complete with all of the intended "swing" - the only minor part being the key. Block is back adding banjo to the old Tater Patch, while Becky Isaacs Bowman and Sonya Isaacs Surrett harmonize beautifully on The Water Is Wide. Block's true chance to shine on banjo is evident with Grover Glen, which is followed by Sutton's father Jerry Sutton on the flat picked Chief's Medley. George & Ira Gershwin's Lady Be Good leads us into the final vocal number with Dolly Parton joining in to lend sweet vocals to her own Smoky Mountain Memories. Another Sutton original and solo guitar piece gently closes the album with The Good Deed. Ready To Go is a great debut that flows nicely between styles and should put this guitar player further in demand among his contemporaries.
Did I mention this guy Bryan Sutton? He plays phenomenal guitar on every track of this fine gathering of friends and family.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz