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New review of Buddy Greene's 'Happy Man' CD spotlights the "Vastly Influential" musicianship of Pat Flynn Fri, 02/27/2009 - 1:11pm

Buddy Greene
Happy Man

Review by Kevin Stevenson

Hundreds of years from now, when university ethno-musicologists are re-examining the current golden era of guitar playing, there will surely be a need to compare and contrast the techniques and styles of two vastly influential flatpickers, Pat Flynn and Bryan Sutton. Surprisingly, the rich source material for this analysis will be an obscure recording made by... a harmonica player!

Buddy Greene may be a familiar name to you for a variety of reasons. He's appeared at Winfield and Merlefest in recent years as a sideman playing some mean mouth harp. He's often seen in the popular Homecoming DVD projects by gospel icon Bill Gaither. Greene traveled in Jerry Reed's band for years, and he is the writer of the modern Christmas classic "Mary, Did You Know?" His latest CD is a collection of folk, bluegrass, gospel, Cajun, Irish and traditional Appalachian styles using some of the finest musicians on the scene today.

Pat Flynn (featured in a cover article of FGM in July/August of 2004) was hugely influential as the guitar player in New Grass Revival in the 70's and 80's. In more recent years he's applied his acoustic guitar skills to hundreds (literally hundreds!) of hit country songs as a Nashville session musician. Lately he's been on the road more playing festivals like Winfield and Merlefest, and even taught a few years at the Kaufman Kamps. Comfortable and capable in many styles, Flynn has a signature technique of pull-offs from the middle of the neck to open strings. Often this produces a harp-like "floatie" effect. Not so with Pat. His middle of-the-neck pull-offs result in a percussive, snappy attack that combine with ascending chromatic lines, double stops and bends to create really powerful, interesting solos.

"Rise From the Ruins", written by the late, great (and greatly missed) Mark Heard, has such a solo, and I found myself rewinding to hear it over and over again. On the gospel tune "Wrasslin' Jacob" Flynn flatpicks over Buddy Greene's solid Travis style finger picking while the Isaacs lay down some of that oldtime harmony religion. Pat also gets to stretch out on the mandolin, soloing and giving sparse backup to Greene's precision harmonica playing on the traditional tune "Little Rabbit". On the slower numbers, like "Last Thing on my Mind" and a Dylan tune I find Pat's playing to be a case study in tasteful, inventive accompaniment.

Bryan Sutton (FGM cover article May/June of 2000) caught major attention at a very young age playing fast and clean in Ricky Skaggs' band. Like Flynn, he's found his way onto countless hit recordings in Nashville, and his own solo records are a must in every wanna-be picker's rotation. His state-of-the-art picking (both rhythm and solo) are in abundance here on breakneck numbers like Bill Monroe's "Wheel Hoss." There's a moment in "Sugarfoot Rag" when the band drops completely out of the mix behind Bryan's quasi-bebop solo. The resulting economy of notes-to-groove ratio is astounding; that solo alone being worth the price of the album. Another real treat is hearing Sutton on clawhammer banjo. On "Darling' Corey" and "Kemo Kimo" we're treated to the same precision and authenticity he brings to his guitar playing, but this time on the old-time five string. The Cajun inspired title track "Happy Man" has Bryan chickin'pickin' a Tele like that's all he's ever done. If you think you know Bryan,(like I did) then buy this record and think again.

Of course, "Happy Man" is not a Flynn/Sutton record. In fact they don't actually appear on any of the same cuts. Buddy Greene is an artist himself, worth listening to. And with Aubrey Hanie playing fiddle all over this thing, and a cameo vocal from Buddy's old boss, Jerry Reed, there's much on this CD to recommend. But if you are a disciple of the great flatpickers of our era, then you really do need to get this album by ... a harmonica player!