Guitarist Billy Strings and special guest guitarist Bryan Sutton played a short duo set on Friday at The Ryman Auditorium. The concert kicked off Strings’ three-night run at the famed Nashville venue.
Strings and Sutton have performed together many times over the past several years, with Strings calling Sutton a “huge inspiration” as a guitarist.
Sutton emerged during what would typically be a set break as Strings’ bandmates — mandolinist Jarrod Walker, bassist Royal Masat and banjoist Billy Failing — exited The Ryman stage. The two guitarists started the mini-set by picking their way through the traditional “Beaumont Rag.” Next came “I’m Coming Back But I Don’t Know When” by Bill Monroe, whose statue stands outside The Ryman.
Sutton and Strings then worked up the instrumental rarity “Salty Sheep,” which the pair arranged from the traditional tunes “Salt Creek” and “Sheep In The Meadow” for Strings’ 2017 album, Turmoil & Tinfoil. The pair followed with “Tom Dooley” and closed out their session with Doc Watson’s “Way Downtown.”
Prior to Sutton’s arrival, Strings and his cohorts began the evening’s performance with the rarely played “Man Of Constant Sorrow.” The musicians served up several first half originals, including “Everything’s The Same,” “While I’m Waiting Here,” “Pyramid Country” “Nothing’s Working,” “Red Daisy” and “Love Like Me,” while slicing in covers such as Greensky Bluegrass’ “Letter To Seymour,” Newgrass Revival’s “Whisper My Name” and J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High.”
After Sutton’s exit, Strings’ bandmates came back and assisted him on “Wargasm.” Monroe’s “Southern Flavor” came next and led into “Dealing Despair.” The set progressed with “Show Me The Door,” followed by “Secret,” Doc and Merle Watson’s arrangement of the traditional “Red Rocking Chair” and “Slow Train.” The set drew to a close with a pairing of “Ernest T. Grass” into “Ole Slewfoot.” Strings capped the first of his three shows at The Ryman with a “Turmoil & Tinfoil” encore.
Strings returns to The Ryman Auditorium tonight, Saturday, May 7 and tomorrow, Sunday, May 8. Watch videos from Friday’s Billy Strings concert at The Ryman below:
Setlist (via BillyBase)
Set: Man Of Constant Sorrow, Everything’s The Same, While I’m Waiting Here  > Pyramid Country > Letter To Seymour, Nothing’s Working, Red Daisy, Love Like Me, Whisper My Name, Ride Me High > Away From The Mire, Beaumont Rag , I’m Coming Back But I Don’t Know When , Salty Sheep , Tom Dooley , Way Downtown , Wargasm, Southern Flavor > Dealing Despair, Show Me The Door, Secrets, Red Rocking Chair , Slow Train, Ernest T. Grass > Ole Slewfoot
Encore: Turmoil & Tinfoil
-  Cumberland Reel tease
-  Billy Strings and Bryan Sutton duo
-  Doc and Merle Watson arrangement