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Tuttle does well by coming home

Cafe 939, Boston, July 17, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Molly Tuttle has won kudos for her acoustic guitar playing. So much so that she's captured the IBMA award for Guitarist of the Year, the first female to win that acclaim from the bluegrass organization. But it's not so much Tuttle's guitar playing that stood out live.

Yes, that serves her well for sure. But it's more that her singing abilities have grown, she has excellent material, and she was backed by a sharp quartet, Tuttle made another triumphant return to Boston.

Tuttle was a confident singer filled with attitude and emotion. There's a tenderness - for the most part - when she sings.

While Tuttle may have racked up bluegrass awards, it would be a stretch to call her music "bluegrass." That, indeed, was part of her sound, but so were country (on one song anyway), rock and Americana.

Tuttle leaned heavily on her debut disc, "When You're Ready" with "Take the Journey" a particular standout. Tuttle did well on the more rowdy sounding "Line Came In (Power Went Out)."

Tuttle chose smartly when she went for covers, offering "Gentle on My Mind" from the late John Hartford, who Tuttle said was one of her musical cornerstones, and Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues." Those two may have been understandable choices, but she also did well with "Zero," a song recorded by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who seemingly have nothing to do with Tuttle musically. She opened her encore with an extremely well-delivered vocal turn on the Grateful Dead's "Standing on the Moon." Earlier, Tuttle also acquitted herself well in her take on the Dead's "Cold Rain and Snow."

Tuttle made note of the sentiment that she was happy to be back in Boston, rattling off a few places she had visited in her day there. Tuttle, who went to school at Berklee College of Music, also pointed out that this was the first time she was playing the intimate Berklee-owned club.

Not the biggest talker going, Tuttle was proud of herself for having correctly pronounced in Swedish the name of a song she did with The Goodbye Girls, a group of which she is a member along with three other Berklee students. Done as a duet, the instrumental showed yet another side of Tuttle.

Tuttle seemingly has not been caught up in musical genre wars. No need when your music is this good.