August 2001

Bryan Sutton - Ready to Go
Sugar Hill  SUG-CD-3906
Released: 2000

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]From the opening chords of the first cut, Bryan Sutton's debut solo album lives up to its name. With a little help from friends like Ricky Scaggs, Jerry Douglas and (on one track) Dolly Parton, among others, Sutton and Sugar Hill Records have crafted an album that will put a smile on the face of any serious lover of acoustic folk.

Ready to Go brings back memories of hot summer evenings, sitting on the porch with some good friends (and some cold beer), hanging out and reminiscing. It's good-time music in every sense of that overworked phrase. The feeling that these musicians are just "pickin’ and grinnin’" is unmistakable -- after all, they have played together for years. It won’t take too long before you too are "ready to go" -- go on listening, that is.

Sonically, Ready to Go is a mixed bag that never quite puts it all together. The sound spreads from speaker to speaker, but exhibits little depth. There’s none of that "you are there" sense that the best recordings give. That said, it’s easy to follow all the different acoustic instruments, down to the smallest details. For instance, the differences among the four guitars (a Dupont and three different Bourgeois) Sutton uses on this disc come through clearly, as does the difference in size between Sutton’s guitars and Scaggs' mandolin -- something not every recording can claim. The sound never got in the way of the music, but neither did it let me lose myself in it.

One place this disc really shone was in the car. I loved cruising down a country (or city) road with Ready to Go playing. "Minor Swing," "Grovers Glen" and "Tater Patch" are especially good driving tunes. Ready To Go made driving fun. It also was an excellent choice for background party music. How could guests avoid having a good time with Sutton and company providing the soundtrack?

Bryan Sutton has talent. It permeates every pit and groove on this recording. There is real feeling invested in the music here. In "Walk Among The Woods," an ache, perhaps the longing for something lost, permeates the song.

If you’re a bluegrass lover and you're not already acquainted with Bryan Sutton’s work, get acquainted quick.