Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hen Molly Tuttle moved to Nashville about five years ago after finishing her studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston, she was trying to find herself as a musician.
It wasn't so easy, she related while introducing "Good Enough" early on during her last of three livestream concerts during the show billed as "...but I'd rather stream with you." "I first wrote this when was trying to make myself as musician. Finally, I wrote this as a reminder to be nice to myself."
Tuttle's seemingly been really good to herself ever since because she is one fine acoustic guitarist and singer, who only improves with age.
Tuttle mixed it up between old and new, although the new wasn't really new. Earlier this year, she released a covers album, "...But I'd Rather Be With You," recorded during COVID. "It helped me so much this year when everything turned upside down," said Tuttle, before launching into her take on the Rolling Stones' "She's a Rainbow."
She lent the song a soft touch vocally with her pretty sounding voice (for the most part, as she turned it up a few notches on the chorus) and exact, lyrical and never over-the-top guitar playing.
This was a night where Tuttle also had a few guests. "I remember as a teenager I always wanted to play in bars in San Francisco," said Tuttle, but at 16, that wasn't going to work. With that, she brought Daniel Donato onstage, who hit the Robert's Western World on Broadway at 16.
With Donato on electric guitar (the backing musicians already included drums and bass from the get go), "the bluegrass police are already mad at us," joked Tuttle, who is normally on the reserved side, but not tonight.
With that, they jumped into the bluegrass tune "Fox on the Run" with Donato's twangy and slightly sandpaper vocals offering a nice contrast to Tuttle, who helped out on harmonies. "That was so fun," said Tuttle, who was on target with that call.
At Donato's suggestion, they showed another side of Tuttle by going the country route on a cover of Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here," which excited Tuttle, who recalled gigging at the late Bakersfield, Cal. great's club, the Crystal Palace a year or two ago.
Once again, Tuttle excelled with her guitar runs, something that would be repeated throughout the 80-minute show. Tuttle's guitar playing has always been her calling card. She exudes a real joyfulness.
They went a different kind of country route by playing the fast-paced " "Georgia on a Fast Train," a song from the late Billy Joe Shaver, who died a few months ago. Donato pushed it along with his twangy vocals and later with his electric guitar licks. At one point, Donato and a smiling Tuttle traded guitar lines. You don't need to turn it up to make a musical statement.
With the departure of Donato, Nashville musician Ellen Angelico soon turned up, marking the first time Tuttle and Angelico played together. Angelico plugged in her acoustic guitar before playing a song that was "a pandemic prayer of mine," Don Williams' chestnut, "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good." Humorous and warm, Angelico was on the pitchy side vocally.
Tuttle took back the show with one of her favorite songs, John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind," combining a country feel musically along while once again demonstrating her acoustic guitar prowess.
"One of my biggest guitar heroes. I've pretty much stolen all of his guitar licks that I can actually play. Everything you've heard me play, I've pretty much stolen from him."
With that, David Grier, who has served as a kind of mentor to Tuttle, soon bounded onstage with an acoustic guitar. They meshed their musical voices on an instrumental, "Soldier's Joy," with the bassist and drummer taking a break.
Tuttle and Grier took a different tack on Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues" with Tuttle assuming lead vocals and featuring an extensive run by Grier. "That was really fast for me," said Grier. Maybe, but they sure made it sound great.
They kept it at a breakneck pace with their take of the Stephen Foster's instrumental "Angelina the Baker." Once could understand why Grier was an influence on Tuttle. That guy can play.
The guests didn't take away the focus from Tuttle for long. That was no problem considering that Tuttle only seems grow as a vocalist and performer with age. And while considered part of the acoustic and bluegrass songs, Tuttle came off more as a country singer tonight – even when tackling "Let the Whole World Talk" from bluegrass band the Johnston Mountain Boys.
And then she took more of a singer/songwriter approach on "Friend of a Friend of a Friend," which she co-wrote.
Tuttle closed with "Light Came In (Power Went Out)," "kind of my 2020 anthem. It took on new meaning for me this year," said Tuttle. During a dark year, this was a song of hope with effusive singing from a spirited Tuttle aided by her bassist Annie Clements and drummer Megan Jane.
This was one inspired evening of music from Tuttle. It may not have been a two-way street between the audience and Tuttle (even if she had a small live crowd there) in terms of feeding off of each other, but you would never have known it. Tuttle has more than found herself.