On her 2020 covers album …But I’d Rather Be With You, Molly Tuttle turned to a slew of disparate genres, from punk (Rancid) to Indie Pop (The National) to classic Rock (The Rolling Stones) for inspiration. On Crooked Tree, she turns her attention fully back to Bluegrass for a satisfyingly solid collection of new originals. This also marks her first record with her new band, Golden Highway, comprised of Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Shelby Means (bass), Kyle Tuttle (banjo)and Dominick Leslie (mandolin).
With the album opener, the spirited “She’ll Change,” Tuttle reminds her fans how she’s managed to quickly build up a global fan base in just a few years, perfectly blending Bluegrass musicianship with pop song structure. The ominous “Dooley’s Farm” also goes a long way to solidify her knack for creating compelling character stories in three-minute songs. Admittedly, several of the tracks here take a little longer to grow on the listener, like the Woodie Guthrie-in-spirit singalong “Big Backyard,” but after hitting the repeat button a couple of times the appeal starts to become clearer.
Tuttle turned to Bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas to produce this one and filled the studio with a slew of contemporaries like Billy Strings (a frequent collaborator with Tuttle), Margo Price, Gilliam Welch, and members of Old Crow Medicine Show. The Bluegrass pedigree is strong on this record, spanning several generations. “I always knew I wanted to make a bluegrass record someday,” Tuttle. “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.”
The proof is all over the record. Tuttle and her band are currently on tour.