Acoustic supertrio Sutton, Holt and Coleman makes splash with two area concerts

The combination of Grammy winners David Holt, Bryan Sutton and T. Michael Coleman as a new band  is a natural evolution of their common bond, legendary guitarist Doc Watson.

They appeared first at MerleFest 2011, but their first full tour brings them through Western North Carolina for two shows in the region. First, they play Thursday night at the Isothermal Community College Foundation Performing Arts Center and then head to Canton for a Jan. 7 date at the Colonial Theatre.
“When we played at MerleFest last spring, it was as ‘at home’ as I’ve ever felt playing music in front of people,“ said Sutton, a Candler native based in Nashville.
“It was so comfortable and so natural, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a more comfortable situation. Playing with them at MerleFest was like going home.”
This trio is a little about going home; their focus is the musical legacy of Doc Watson.
“We all come from the same musical cloth,” said Sutton. “The musical scene in Western North Carolina is so rich. That is our spirit, how we are influenced by both Doc and the music here. We appreciate and want to honor both he and the music.”
Along with Watson’s music, Sutton is playing tunes learned from some of the fiddlers around Asheville like Tommy Hunter, Tommy Bell, Marvin Faulkner and his grandfather Grover Sutton.
“That’s the music that influenced me and that I come back to — the Carroll Best string band, the Stoney Creek Boys,” Sutton said. He compares Watson’s influence to legendary bluegrass musician Bill Monroe’s.
“Monroe did bluegrass, Doc did the songs and styles of Western North Carolina,” said Sutton, who has been voted Guitar player of the Year five times by the International Bluegrass Music Association . “We want to carry that spirit forward, that is what is enticing about the musical direction. It’s similar to when Bill Monroe started something and people got wind of it. Doc started a sound, too.”
Sutton hopes they will carry the tradition forward, adding their own imprint to the mix.
We bend the tradition, but we don’t break it,” said Holt. “We are not copying, we’re using Doc as a guidepost. T. Michael and I know so much of his music. All three of us have won a Grammy with Doc, but not together.” Holt has toured with Watson for the last 14 years, and in 2002, their CD “Legacy” won a Grammy for best folk recording.
“I haven’t ever really spent a whole lot of time with him (Watson), but I’ve played with him on stages here and there,” said Sutton. “The one recording I have with him won the Grammy a few years ago for country instrumental recording.”
Coleman toured the world with Doc and Merle Watson for 15 years, later playing with groups like the Seldom Scene and Chesapeake.
“The thing I remember most was the power of just those three instruments coming off the stage,” Coleman said. “They played with such intensity and confidence.”
Sutton, Holt and Coleman is not a cover band.
“We’ll play everything from Doc’s songs to mountain music, Richard Thompson, my original music or music from other singer songwriters,” said Holt.
“Each of us have a relationship and a respect for Doc and his music, and want to express that through the music we play,” said Coleman. “We all love the early songs Doc recorded and will try to relate the feelings we experienced when we first heard those songs.”

Written by
Carol Rifkin | take5 correspondent