Album Review of
Crooked Tree

Written by Joe Ross
May 8, 2022 - 3:06pm EDT
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When I first heard 14-year-old Molly Tuttle in 2007 on her first album (with her father, Jack), The Old Apple Tree, I realized that the impressive multi-instrumentalist and singer had a strong work ethic, outstanding aptitude for bluegrass, and was clearly on a fast track to stardom. I expected Molly to really hit full stride a few years later, and she certainly didn’t disappoint. Now with several albums under her belt, tours, awards and appearances on national television, Molly Tuttle uses her strong foundation and education to further define her own personalized signature sound that won her a 2016 IBMA Momentum Award, 2017 and 2018 IBMA Guitarist Awards, and 2018 Instrumentalist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards. I actually wish she would’ve opened this latest solo project, her fourth, with the closing song, “Grass Valley” that tells her nostalgic, sentimental story of a shy kid watching from afar, jamming in the shade, praying to catch musical magic in her hands.

The bluegrass genre has evolved much in the past several decades, and there are many styles of the music competing for support from fans who have come to expect a great repertoire of catchy songs, hot picking, evocative singing, cohesive arrangements, high quality sonic recording and engineering. I’m pleased to say that Molly Tuttle’s winding musical road through the hills of “gold country” has opened her heart to the sound that will carry the genre's future forward. On Crooked Tree, her core band includes co-producer Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Ron Block (banjo), Dominick Leslie (mandolin), Jason Carter (fiddle) and Mike Bub (bass). The sum of all the parts propelled this album to #1 on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Bluegrass Album Chart.   

While some of her previous albums have been more oriented toward her singer/songwriter material, Crooked Tree emphasizes energetic, driving radio-friendly bluegrass fare with several guest artists supplementing her Golden Highway band that kicks right into the snappy openers, “She'll Change” and “Flatland Girl” (featuring singer Margo Price). The haunting “Dooley's Farm” features some fine guitar work by Billy Strings, while “Big Backyard” was recorded with Old Crow Medicine Show. “Over the Line’ enlists the support of Sierra Hull on mandolin, and “Nashville Mess Around” incorporates a little of Molly’s yodeling. Singers Dan Tyminski and Gillian Welch make cameo appearances on “San Francisco Blues” and “Side Saddle,” respectively.

All in all, it’s an all-star cast of fine musicians honoring tradition while presenting a baker’s dozen of new contemporary songs co-written, played and sung masterfully by bluegrasser Molly Tuttle. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)