This is how to make music. Crafted songs, beautifully sung, and played with dexterity. Whenever it ends, it has to go straight back on again.

Label: Compass Records
Time: 11 tracks / 40 mins

There aren’t too many singers who could keep me very happy just by singing a privacy policy. Dusty Springfield and Cara Dillon probably could, and Dusty would probably even find some emotion in there somehow. Molly Tuttle might just be good enough to join them.

The Berklee College graduate’s vocals are warm, with a soft Nichole Nordeman-like tremor that adds to the feel, rather than distracting.

And what a superb production job this is from Ryan Hewitt! Startlingly clear, it feels like she’s just inches away from your head and you can hear every half breath and every tap of the strings. With several tracks, Tuttle plays an upfront picked acoustic guitar, with only the lightest sonic accents to back her up. Much as I love instrumental colour, hearing just the basics is all I need here. But when the accents appear, the strings, keys, mandolin (from Sierra Hull), lead guitar or harmony vocals are just right for the places they appear.

This collection of largely relationship songs flows along on a brisk, mid-tempo wave, with a mid-disc burst of energy from “Light Came In.”

Two years ago, Tuttle was the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association's Guitar Player of the Year award. It is no surprise. Her guitar picking is often delectably delicate, clean, fluid and precise.

Although overall, there is a much poppier feel to this singer-songwriter set, her previous EP was predominantly bluegrass and that background comes across on “Take the Journey,” where she plays the riff using an insistent clawhammer technique that I normally only hear on banjo.

Tuttle doesn’t do the obvious hooks that make an impact and then get irritating; rather, she crafts tunes that work naturally and draw you in, lingering gracefully in the mind. “Make your Mind Up” and “Clue” are among the great songs that you want to put on repeat, but this is a collection of song after song that makes you either want to sing along or just bask in its sound.

There are no fireworks here, just beautifully, beautifully judged songs - and too many fine ones to pick out highlights, although “Million Miles” (with Jason Isbell on backing vocals) and “Don’t Let Go” are also right up there.

She often reminds me of great singers who have had quite short careers – people like Kendall Payne and the quieter bits of Jennifer Knapp – so I hope that Tuttle doesn’t fade out as quickly. Realistically, I can only see her career growing and growing. This really is lovely stuff.
 

Derek Walker
walkerwords.wordpress.com