Molly Tuttle - When You're Ready
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When You're Ready (Compass, 2019)

Molly Tuttle

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

One of the most celebrated acoustic guitarists working within the Americana field, Molly Tuttle is two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitarist of the Year, the first female to be so honored.

"When You're Ready" is Tuttle's first full-fledged solo album, having previously recorded an EP ("Rise"), albums with both the Tuttles and The Goodbye Girls, and a long-ago recording with her father, Jack ("The Old Apple Tree"). Tuttle has also elevated her profile making a variety of celebrated guest appearances with bluegrass and grassicana contemporaries including Bobby Osborne, Missy Raines and Special Consensus.

With "When You're Ready," Tuttle has chosen to take her music away from bluegrass and traditional confines in favor of a broadened pop sound. Love songs and those examining relationships abound on these 11 songs, all buoyed by Tuttle bold approaches and impeccable phrasing.

Rosanne Cash and especially Shawn Colvin come to mind, both in presentation and writing, during "The High Road" and "Take The Journey," a song that features impressive and innovative guitar runs, whereas Alison Krauss may be an suitable reference point when considering the easy-going and welcoming title track.

When she stretches her voice to a higher register on "Don't Let Go" and "Sleepwalking," Tuttle impressively journeys into a territory most frequently associated with Kate Bush, mysterious and ethereal.

This variety of approaches make "When You're Ready" a challenging and wholly-satisfying creation. Esoteric lyrics ("Bad habits burn like TV static, but you're coming in clear" she sings within the self-written "Sleepwalking") may challenge those expecting songs about the a past of cabins, hollers and footprints in the snow. But the honest and straightforward nature of "Making My Mind Up" and "Light Came In (Power Went Out)" ground Tuttle's songs in contemporary circumstance.

Co-writing with familiar names (Sarah Siskind, "The High Road" and "Take The Journey," Jewel and Steve Poltz on the engaging "Million Miles," which features Jason Isbell on backing vocals) and going it alone elsewhere ("Clue," which closes the album with as mournful a slice of lost love as one is likely to encounter), Tuttle has worked with producer Ryan Hewitt (The Lumineers, Cody Jinks) to create an album where genre designations become quite inadequate.

There are no shortage of electric, synthesized, and percussive instruments across the breadth of "When You're Ready," but the focal points are always Tuttle's clear guitar notes and confident voice. No chanteuse at the whim of a producer, Tuttle demonstrates she is in total control on this crucial, amazing and continually surprising album.

CDs by Molly Tuttle

When You're Ready, 2019 Rise, 2017

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