Molly Tuttle – Twisted Tree on Nonesuch (CD Review)
Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway
Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Molly Tuttle makes her Nonesuch debut with Twisted tree. Co-produced with dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas, the release features a number of prominent traditional musicians as collaborators and focuses on Tuttle’s ties to bluegrass and roots music. Previous releases have seen Tuttle straddle pop and bluegrass, and while twisted tree emphasizes the latter, the memorization and uniqueness of many of her songs remind us that she is a versatile and formidable talent.
Tuttle plays guitar in a flat-picking style and takes turns playing nimble lead lines and a furious beat. A showcase for her acting is “Goodbye Girl”. On this track, as elsewhere, Douglas makes the perfect complement to the proceedings, seamlessly integrating his formidable chops into arrangements with Golden Highway. Her solo on “Goodby Girl” is both fast and moving. Tuttle’s band Golden Highway, made up of fiddler Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, mandolinist Dominick Leslie, banjo player Kyle Tuttle and bassist Shelby Means, is a terrific combination, all equally at home soloing and playing. imaginative but rock. strong ensemble musicians. Other musicians joined the sessions in Nashville, including bassist Viktor Krauss, drummer Jerry Pentecost and harmonica player Cory Younts. Ketch Secor co-wrote several songs with Tuttle and contributed mandolin. Melody Walker is another co-writer and sings backing vocals on the album.
The title track begins with a slow build of the chorus, over which we get the full band providing a vintage bluegrass arrangement, complete with a soulful violin solo from Keith-Hynes. “She’ll Change” and “Over the Line” showcase the musicians together. Kyle Tuttle’s banjo takes the instrumental lead on “Flatland Girl,” while Margo Price contributes vocals. The layering of his vocals with Tuttle creates a nice mix. The addition of Old Crow Medicine Show to the “Big Backyard” creates another highlight focused on group singing, a verse with a memorable hook followed by exuberant choruses. Guitarist and vocalist Billy Strings joins Tuttle on the blues shuffle “Dooley’s Farm”. The waltzing “San Francisco Blues” is a melancholy duet with Dan Tyminski. Perhaps the biggest star turn is Gillian Welch’s appearance on “Side Saddle,” a saucy, rousing showcase for singers with big licks from Douglas.
Left to their own devices, Tuttle and Golden Highway deliver equally compelling performances. “Nashville Mess Around” is great fun – a hootenanny, complete with yodeling. “The River Knows” has a haunting melody that alternates loosely arranged vocal accompaniment with intricate instrumental breaks. The album ends with a moving song, “Grass Valley”, which deals with family and loss with uplifting sensitivity. twisted tree is a compelling and uniformly excellent recording. Recommended.