Talented guitarist Molly Tuttle wowed audiences at the Transatlantic Sessions earlier this year and has already won many awards for her inventive playing style and talent, including International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year twice. Her debut album When You’re Ready showcases her excellent songwriting and vocals skills too, conveying an airy breeziness that is perfect for Spring.
From the start this album just shines and shimmers in a poppy way few in this genre ever do. In fact Tuttle’s music is less traditional folk/bluegrass than expected – she actually owes more of a debt to radio friendly 90s Lilith Fair types like The Indigo Girls and Jewel, who actually appears on the songwriter credits of opening song A Million Miles. Tuttle took an unfinished Jewel song and made it her own, also inviting Jason Isbell along to record back up vocals. The results are truly lovely (and I have always loved Jewel so it is really nice to see another woman honouring her songwriting in this way.)
Take The Journey showcases her impressive clawhammer guitar technique. The song is a invitation to adventure and excitement – it sounds like she might even be singing a little song of encouragement to herself. Touring is tough after all. Sometimes you need remind yourself that the journey is worth taking.
The love songs on this album like Make My Mind Up and When You’re Ready are quiet and thoughtful, tinged with a undercurrent of uncertainty. The High Road suggests that her patience in love was not rewarded. You take the high road and I’ll take mine, she sings still sounding upbeat despite being ‘broken and burned’. Tuttle rarely lets the darkness invade the music.
Don’t Let Go definitely belongs on the soundtrack to some 90s teen movie or tv show, just at the point where the heroine is realising she really is in love with that guy after all. So yes what I’m saying is that if this was 1998 these songs would fit perfectly on the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack (and hey I love that show and the music featured so that’s no criticism). Maybe teens now like to listen to rap music and horror pop but I like to think there’s always a good girl dreamer out there waiting to discover music like this.
Light Came In (Power Went Out) also sounds like a really great lost radio classic, back when the radio actually played acoustic rock songs by women with guitars. Messed with My Mind is another of my favourite songs on the album – a solo write contemplating how love went wrong. It has a hint of edginess absent from the rest of the album. Sit Back and Watch it Roll is the only other brooding moment – a song about when all that’s left to do is sit in the dark and think about your troubles.
Final song ‘Clue’ is a lovely end point, about searching the airwaves for a song by her ex love. Her vocals really soar on this one, and that sweet tone is a real delight throughout.
While I love Tuttle’s feminine sound I imagine that more ‘serious’ (ie boring) bluegrass fans may find this album too poppy or lightweight, and it probably isn’t twangy enough for the trad country/Americana fans either. For me though that’s what sets this artist apart – she’s trying to do something distinctive from her peers.
When You’re Ready is a refreshingly enjoyable album and this is just the beginning of the road for Molly Tuttle. I look forward to taking the journey with her music, wherever she decides to head next.