KURATED NO. 147
VANCOUVER FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL
featuring Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway
- INTRO: Guitar Star Picks At Tradition
- TWO PLAYLISTS:
1) A Kurated list of Molly Tuttle favourites on YouTube and Spotify – these playlists are a bit different from each other. YouTube has a number of live videos not available on Spotify which has album tracks only
2) Crooked Tree – the 2022 album with backing band Golden Highway on YouTube and Spotify
- INTERVIEW VIDEO: On CBC Radio q with Tom Power
- MUSIC TUTORIAL: My Life in Five Riffs by Molly Tuttle for Guitar Player magazine
- ALBUM REVIEW: The Guardian
GUITAR STAR PICKS AT TRADITION
Molly Tuttle threads feminism into her style of bluegrass
Musical prodigy Molly Tuttle recorded her first album when she was 13. It was a duet with her dad, Jack, a bluegrass player and teacher. At 23 she became the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year Award, an honour she’s won twice.
MOJO magazine calls her “a leading light of the newest wave of roots-Americana.”
On her third solo album – Crooked Tree released in April with backing band Golden Highway – Tuttle maps ground as a superb singer-songwriter who tackles topical issues with a reputation as a superior flatpicker and clawhammer guitarist.
“Some of the old ballads are really misogynist. There’s a lot of violence towards women. So I flipped the perspective to a woman’s,” she told Guitar.com about some of the songs on Crooked Tree.
“I wanted to write a feminist bluegrass anthem, which I feel like I did with ‘Side Saddle,’ a song she performs with renowned singer Gillian Welch. It’s an ode to being a tomboy with a chorus that asserts:
I don’t wanna ride side saddle
Side saddle, side saddle
I just wanna ride bowlegged
Bowlegged like the boys
She’s A Rainbow
Tuttle describes herself as a queer ally and, in that spirit, recorded a feminist version of the Rolling Stones’ 60s baroque-pop hit She’s a Rainbow on her 2020 covers album, But I’d Rather Be With You.
She told Vogue magazine: “I chose to cover that song because I really liked the idea of hearing it from a female perspective.”
For the innovative video, “we thought we should include all genders, and have people answer different questions about feminism and intersectionality and how all our different experiences shaped how we’re treated in society.”
In some of the video’s clips Tuttle is bald. She was was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease alopecia areata when she was three years old. Within a year, it progressed into its most complete form, alopecia universalis, resulting in total body hair loss.
Jumping Genres: A Soft Spot for Punk
“Ask anyone who has heard her, and they’ll likely say Molly Tuttle is too talented to stay in one lane,” Billboard magazine commented on the scope of her musical forays. In a MOJO interview she said, “I do have a soft spot for punk rock”. She covered veteran Berkeley punk band Rancid’s song Olympia, WA on her pandemic covers album.
“But I heard so much old-time music and bluegrass growing up, I always knew I wanted to play it.”
However the But I’d Rather Be With You album features a wide range of songs by artists as varied as Harry Styles, FKA Twigs, Arthur Russell, The Grateful Dead and more. Tuttle is a dexterous and adventurous player with musical depth and understanding.
Keeping Good Company and Tuttle as a Teacher
Because she’s been playing and recording since her teens – and attending Festivals with her father since childhood – Tuttle is a music veteran at age 29 and keeps fine musical company. For the Crooked Tree album she enlisted dobro master Jerry Douglas to handle production as well as musical duties. Other collaborators on the collection include Gillian Welch, Margo Price and Old Crow Medicine Show.
And, she has a side hustle following in her father’s footsteps as a teacher. You can see a number of her engaging music tutorial videos online. Her dad remains an active player and teacher with his website outlining a range of offers.
She did an instalment of My Life in Five Riffs a teaching series produced by Guitar Player Magazine spotlighting expert players. Tuttle’s 19-minute presentation covers tunes by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (Annabelle), David Greer (Bill Cheatham), folk standard Little Sadie, Joni Mitchell’s Morning Morgantown and I Am A Pilgrim by Clarence White. Both her playing and commentary are delightful and erudite.
Molly Tuttle is one of those rare artists who is both a master of her craft while remaining an ardent student. This bodes well for her musical future and for the growing audience listening in.
Stay tuned. Enjoy!
04 June 2022
Kurated’s Molly Tuttle favourites on YouTube
Kurated’s Molly Tuttle favourites on Spotify
Crooked Tree album on Spotify
Crooked Tree album on YouTube
The kudos for Molly Tuttle are numerous. A sampling:
“Molly Tuttle’s fingers move so quickly, she could pick your pocket without breaking stride. Though she’s only been releasing albums for three years, the sharpest ears in Americana music have taken notice.” —The New York Times
“Tuttle’s guitar playing, with its sly sense of rhythm and incisive, articulate lines, is a central protagonist in arrangements that steer the possibilities of a bluegrass band toward cinematic sophistication. The poised clarity of her singing suggests that she’s taken in everything around her, from her immediate surroundings out to distant horizons, before plotting where she’ll stand.” —NPR Music
“Crooked Tree feels like the album Molly Tuttle was destined to make.” —Uncut
“Everything sounds alive, vital, and perfectly in focus.” —Mojo
“Ask anyone who has heard her, and they’ll likely say Molly Tuttle is too talented to stay in one lane.” —Billboard
“Flatpicking prodigy…alongside lightning-fast picking, the album showcases song-sized world-building.” —Tennessean
“One of the best six-string players on planet earth.” —American Songwriter
Classy Bluegrass for Modern America
by Neil Spencer
Though raised in California’s suburbs, Molly Tuttle had her heart hijacked by bluegrass music at the age of 11, when her father took her to an upstate country festival, an experience recounted here on Grass Valley (with her dad on vocals). This is Tuttle’s third album but the first all-bluegrass affair, after 2019’s When You’re Ready, a debut of crafted Americana, and 2020’s …But I’d Rather Be With You, a collection of engaging cover versions that included the Rolling Stones’ She’s a Rainbow reimagined as a feminist anthem. Crooked Tree looks destined to establish the 29-year-old singer and guitarist with a wider audience.
Several heavyweight talents contribute, including Old Crow Medicine Show, whose Ketch Secor co-wrote several songs, and Dobro maestro Jerry Douglas, who produces and plays. It’s an upbeat, melodic set full of phenomenal picking, not least from Tuttle herself. Thematically, it’s bluegrass-lite; no bitter tears are shed for old loves, the Lord is not summoned, there’s just the one murder ballad. Instead, Tuttle’s clear voice delivers songs about strong women such as Side Saddle, a cowgirl duet with Gillian Welch, and cameos of modern America: San Francisco gentrification, weed farming and, on the title track, misfits such as herself. A class act.