895 Fest: Molly Tuttle Is More Than Ready

May 25, 2019

Part of a series of artist previews for the first-ever 895 Fest, taking place May 31 and June 1 at Hop Springs in Murfreesboro. Full info at 895Fest.org

When we profiled Molly Tuttle last Summer, we knew she was a pioneering female winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year award and that the wider roots world was watching her as an especially promising singer/songwriter. But we didn’t know what she was conjuring up in the studio as her official album debut. Now we know, and it’s dramatic.

When You’re Ready came out from Compass Records in April of this year, and it felt like the Pacific Ocean swells Tuttle knows so well from growing up in the Bay Area. Anybody looking forward to a bluegrass album had to adjust and bask in a young artist embracing pretty pop and investigative songwriting. Tuttle’s voice is luxurious, with shades of Norah Jones and Alison Krauss. Her guitar skills are showcased more as tasty accompaniment than with solos, though her dynamic clawhammer style on “Take The Journey” offers a smart update of old-time influences.

Tuttle’s performance chops have long been enthralling, if under-stated and shy. This year’s dates have presented a more confident and outwardly charming artist launching on what will surely be a long and cherished career. She’ll play 895 Fest this Friday at 6 pm.

Here’s more background from our 2018 article:

Tuttle learned bluegrass music in a family band led by her father, a well-known Bay Area musician and educator. She received artistic mentorship from established West Coast stars, including Kathy Kallick and Laurie Lewis. Neither is a lead guitarist but both encouraged Tuttle to develop as a flatpicker despite a dearth of female role models in the style. Then she attended the Berklee College of Music before moving to Nashville and landing a record deal. Her debut 7-song EP Rise was highly praised and she’s wrapping up work on a full-length, self-written album.

Tuttle’s guitar is full of subtleties and novelties, rooted in the arpeggiated technique called cross picking, where a strong melody and harmonic decorations come flowing out of the instrument at once. There’s some Celtic influence in her modal scales, evident on the syncopated and delicious instrumental “Super Moon.”  She also has adapted the old mountain style of clawhammer banjo to the guitar for a hard-driving, full-bodied sound that’s like nothing else out there. Her IBMA Guitarist of the Year win, as celebrated as it was for its glass ceiling smashing, was deserved for departing from the Tony Rice archetype. She is without a doubt the most fascinating flatpicker in the business for close listening.

And check out this conversation with Molly Tuttle from the summer of 2017.