Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
Friday, October 07, 2022
Molly Tuttle has had a lifelong love of bluegrass, a genre the Northern California-bred artist first discovered thanks to her father (a music teacher and multi-instrumentalist) and grandfather (a banjo player whose Illinois farm she visited often throughout her childhood). On her new album Crooked Tree, Tuttle joyfully explores that rich history with bluegrass, bringing her imagination to tales of free spirits and outlaws, weed farmers and cowgirls resulting in a record that is both forward-thinking and steeped in bluegrass heritage.
"I always knew I wanted to make a bluegrass record someday," says the Nashville-based Tuttle, who began attending bluegrass jams at age eleven. "Once I started writing, everything flowed so easily: sometimes I've felt an internal pressure to come up with a sound no one's heard before, but this time my intention was just to make an album that reflected the music that's been passed down through generations in my family. I found a way to do that while writing songs that feel true to who I am, and it really helped me to grow as a songwriter."
Her debut release for Nonesuch Records, Crooked Tree is co-produced by Tuttle and bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas (who also plays Dobro throughout the album); her studio band also includes esteemed musicians like Ron Block (banjo, guitar, harmony vocals), Mike Bub (upright bass), Jason Carter (fiddle), Tina Adair (harmony vocals), and Dominick Leslie, a mandolinist who also performs in Tuttle's live band, Golden Highway, along with banjo player Kyle Tuttle, fiddle player Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, and bassist Shelby Means. The album features such illustrious guests as Gillian Welch, Margo Price, Billy Strings, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dan Tyminski, and Sierra Hull. Crooked Tree marks a departure from the eclecticism of Tuttle's critically lauded 2019 full-length debut When You're Ready and 2020's ...but i'd rather be with you (a covers album that masterfully reinterprets everyone from FKA Twigs to Karen Dalton). Each track showcases Tuttle's guitar technique, for which she was the first women ever named Guitar Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association, as well as her voice—an instrument that shifts from warmly understated to fiercely soulful with equal parts precision and abandon, occasionally treating the listener to some high-spirited yodeling.
Although Tuttle started out on violin, she took up guitar at the age of eight and found immense inspiration in the music of the seminal bluegrass artists whose records her father constantly spun at home. "I very clearly remember sitting on our couch with my guitar, flipping through songbooks and singing songs by the Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe," says Tuttle, who ventured into writing her own songs at age fifteen.
After high school, she headed to Berklee College of Music in Boston, studying in the American Roots Music Program with a focus on guitar performance and songwriting. Upon moving to Nashville in 2015, Tuttle began working with a diverse mix of musicians in the Americana, folk, and bluegrass communities, continuing to refine the skills that have earned acclaim from the likes of The Bluegrass Situation (who noted that "her playing is rhythmically complex, technically precise, and remarkably fleet, as though there are two sets of hands running up and down the frets").
Golden Highway—her brand-new band of bluegrass virtuosos—features mandolinist Dominick Leslie, banjoist Kyle Tuttle, fiddle player Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, and bassist Shelby Means.
“Between her expressive, crystalline voice and astounding flat picking guitar skills, Tuttle has made history..."—ROLLING STONE COUNTRY
“The person that I'm interested in is what Molly Tuttle is doing. I think she has a tremendous sensitivity for the music and there's something about her spirit, it has a gentleness and strength in it. I like her vibe and her musicality. I performed with her and got to hear her perform at the IBMAs in Raleigh just last month. She did my favorite thing of the night. She did a version of 'Rain and Snow' that was really lovely."—GILLIAN WELCH
"[Molly Tuttle] sings with the gentle authority of Gillian Welch, yet plays astoundingly fleet flat-picking guitar like Chet Atkins on superdrive."—AMERICAN SONGWRITER MAGAZINE
"Her songs, singing and solos, much like her demeanor, tend to have an inward-looking elegance to them; they're the outward expressions of a searching mind and a longtime dedication to cultivating her craft"—JEWLY HIGHT, NPR
"Among the most brilliant guitarists in this new generation is Molly Tuttle, who seems as effortlessly conversant when flatpicking as when playing in the clawhammer style, and who is equally gifted as a singer-songwriter."— PREMIER GUITAR