EPs are a strange breed. Some are no more than demos for a larger work. Others are a hodgepodge of material recorded here and there and sold to help pay for gas money to the artists' next live gig. And some, like Molly Tuttle's "Rise", are exquisitely constructed messages in a bottle, to sum up the artists' current stage of development.
Tuttle could have easily named this EP, "Let's Get on With It" or "Watch What I Do Now," but "Rise" serves admirably. It's a well-constructed, beautifully written and inspirationally played set of seven songs that serve as an inflection point for her work going forward.
Tuttle is, foremost, a guitarist of singular ability; she's another product of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but grew up in the West. She's a member of The Goodbye Girls, but also tours on her own. "Rise" demonstrates that, in addition to her instrumental skills, she can write songs, and then sing them, with feeling and style. Tuttle sings with the soulfulness earthy texture of Gillian Welch whilst maintaining a hint of a Parton-like high mountain sound.
The selections are well-conceived. There's a message here, one for the listener to discover. The first four songs, based in bluegrass, variously tackle relationships and their frustrations. The listener could fairly focus on the powerful flat-picking guitar work of Tuttle in the opening selection ("Good Enough") and overlook the lyrics. In the same way, "You Didn't Call My Name" and "Save This Heart" fight between regret and release on the one hand and crazy-good playing on the other. Don't fight it. Listen and enjoy. One thing is true: however unsustainable human relationships may be, they assuredly inspire tasty lyrics in the hands of somebody as talented as Tuttle. ("I call across the border, there's static on the line. Save this heart of mine") or ("Sorry I tried to hold you. I was stricken by your charms. I should have known that you were wild before I trapped you in my arms..lightning in a jar").
After the discomforting and unsettling sentiments of the first four selections, "Rise" transitions to a road/touring song common to the genre with "Friend and A Friend."
"Some days it's wide open.
Some days it's a dead end
Some days I feel like I'm walking on the Wild West End
I've got a big dream and a worn-out D-18
I'll I need is a friend and a friend and another friend"
Then, having stated a claim to the road, Tuttle crashes in "Super Moon," the only instrumental and a startling display of her guitar skills. After all, she won the IBMA Momentum Award in 2016 and has appeared on the cover of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
The denouement of "Rise" appears in "Walden," a keen piece of writing about living in the present and appreciation for the gifts of the world. And, so, Tuttle has, in seven songs, taking the listener through a cycle of growth, and, perhaps, renewal, with an eye to the future. Tuttle has a singular talent on display in "Rise"; she is staking a claim to the future. Join in.