Not Too Far From The Tree: A Collection of Guitar Duets with Heroes and Friends (Sugar Hill)
Bryan Sutton

By Bob Mitchell

This is an outrageous project! No one person should be able to play a guitar as well as Bryan Sutton. What makes this CD even more outrageous is that he invited eleven other phenomenal pickers to join him in a collection of unbelievable duets. Every guitarist in the world will find himself or herself hitting the repeat button and asking, "How did they do that?!"

The press kit says, "Sutton not only wanted to showcase his heroes, but also demonstrate just how his own playing evolved under their influence." After one listen it is obvious he accomplished his goal. Sutton's approach is always clean and innovative. His musical co-conspirators are equally guilty of incredible, jaw-dropping technique. There are too many highlights to mention in the allotted space but you should know that Sutton took a mobile recording unit to the homes of a few of his musical heroes and friends to capture the marvelous sounds that can only be created by two un-amplified acoustic guitars. Not Too Far is a powerhouse release with some of the most formidable and historically significant guitarists in the industry including Doc Watson, George Schuffler, Earl Scruggs, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Dan Crary, Jack Lawrence and David Grier.

"Ragtime Annie" is a blazing high-octane track with Grier. The Irish classic "Whiskey Before Breakfast," features inspired solos with Watson. "Carroll County Blues" is a four-minute groove fest with Skaggs. Crary and Sutton jump all over "Forked Deer" in a dazzling display of imagination. Tony Rice joins the fun with explosive versions of "Lonesome Fiddle Blues" and "Dusty Miller." Jack Lawrence's contributions on "Stoney Creek" are extraordinary. I feel guilty not mentioning every track but my editor says I must leave room for other reviewers on this page. Also guesting are Russ Barenberg, Norman Blake, Jerry Douglas and Sutton's father, Jerry, all of whom are wicked pickers.

On a five-point scale of flat picking excellence, this release merits a five. For more information, check out