Not too Far from the Tree
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2006, Volume 13, #4
Written by Kirk deCordova
On his latest solo effort Not too Far from the Tree, Bryan Sutton honors and showcases some of the greatest bluegrass guitarists of all-time. He not only wanted to pay homage to the men that influenced and inspired him, but he also wanted to show how these giants of bluegrass altered and affected his own style for the better. Now that many of these respected guitarists of the past have reached their golden years, Sutton decided to organize an album that would let the world see how talented and special these legends really were. In order to best capture the aura of an improvised jam session, he opted not to utilize professional recording studios, and instead, he set up shop in a series of private homes. Utilizing the structure of a duet, Sutton captured the interaction, spontaneity, and freedom experienced by two guitarists playing in tandem, and as a result, the music on Not too Far from the Tree sounds like a relaxed conversation rather than a scripted dialogue.
Because of the consistency of Not too Far from the Tree, it is difficult to identify any specific tracks as being better than the rest. All of the songs on the affair are individual treasures that reflect the styles of each of the masters. Some of the selections that are particularly memorable include the spirited Lonesome Fiddle Blues and Dusty Miller (both of which feature Tony Rice) and the equally flawless Stoney Creek (which is a showcase for Jack Lawrence). Other tunes that leave a lasting impression include the down-home styling of The Old Spinning Wheel (with David Grier) and the Irish-tinged Whiskey Before Breakfast (with Doc Watson). In addition, it’s hard to ignore the bright picking and "simple, distinct, and perfect" style of the great Earl Scruggs on Give Me the Roses, and although the liner notes claim that the concluding Ragtime Annie (with David Grier) "wasn’t any fun at all," it undeniably is a joyride for listeners.
In recent years, Bryan Sutton firmly has established himself as the preeminent country and bluegrass acoustic guitarist in America. For proof, look no further than the many albums on which he appears — Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, the Dixie Chicks, and Randy Travis are just a few who have employed his services. Perhaps someday, a guitarist from the next generation will produce an album of Nashville’s greatest accompanists and invite Bryan Sutton to make an appearance.
49th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Country Instrumental Performance
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Not too Far from the Tree is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box