Most artists who have as much buzz and as many awards as Molly Tuttle, already have several full length albums to their credit. This is her first. If you were lucky enough to be at her album release show at the Basement East last Wednesday you could tell this was something special. The crowd was mostly musicians, songwriters and industry types because they already knew this was going to be something special. The mood was electric.
Tuttle was named “Instrumentalist of the Year'” at the 2018 Americana Music Awards solely on the strength of her debut EP, Rise, and is also a two-time winner of the IBMA’s “Guitar Player of the Year” award. Her guitar playing style is mesmerizing and might be described as somewhere between Billy Stings (her one time roommate) and Leo Kottke. Her roots are firmly planted in bluegrass having been part of her families bluegrass band, but her new album When You’re Ready seems to edge a little closer to mainstream. So often players with her level of skill just knock you over the head with it yet Tuttle saves it for well placed intense moments in the right songs making it so much more enjoyable.
After opening act Maya de Vitry finished up her acoustic set, Tuttle came out with a full band including “East Nashville Staple” Anthony DeCosta on guitar and keyboards. Her producer Ryan Hewitt was on the board just as he was for the album. “Million Miles Away,” one of several stand out songs and cowrites from the album, was started by Steve Poltz for Jewel but never finished. Jewel’s loss was Tuttle’s gain in this heartfelt break-up song. On the album the song features Jason Isbell on backing vocals. Besides playing songs from the new album Tuttle also mixed in a few old songs including “Good Enough” and Super Moon” from her EP Rise. Her cover of the Townes Van Zandt song “White Freightliner Blues” again wowed the crowd with her Claw hammer style guitar picking.
The 26-year-old Berklee graduate had the audience in the palm of her hand when she got to the last song “Take The Journey” which truly showcased everything, the band, her voice and her flat picking skills. For her one encore Tuttle made Neil Young’s “Helpless” her own.
What we seem to be witnessing is the slow, steady, well planned, deliberate ascent to stardom. If you missed the album release show you can catch Tuttle at the Opry tomorrow night. You won’t be sorry.