First impressions aren’t always lasting impressions, though with this gem of a record, the full-length debut of singer-songwriter (and two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year) Molly Tuttle, I can’t imagine not returning to it time and again for the rest of my days. The album blends bluegrass, country and rock into a deft set that’s as sublime as it is spellbinding, and conjures everything from Manassas (sans the Latin tinge) to Jewel’s under-appreciated 2006 opus, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland.
For those unaware of Molly – and, honestly, I was until this No Depression review in early April sent me scurrying to YouTube to research her – it’s safe to say that music is in her DNA. The daughter of San Francisco-based bluegrass musician-instructor Jack Tuttle, she picked up the guitar at age 8, and some 17 years later is now a master of the flatpicking, clawhammer, and cross-picking techniques. She released an album with her dad at age 13 and joined the family band, The Tuttles With AJ Lee, a few years after that. She also attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and released a few albums in various collectives and duos with classmates before, in 2017, releasing her solo debut EP.
At first listen, When You’re Ready sounds like a lost classic from another era – which kind of makes sense since the opening track, “Million Miles,” was an unfinished Jewel-Steve Poltz tune, written in 1997 and released on the Jewel: A Life Uncommon video in 2000. Twenty-two years later, after Poltz played it for her, Molly completed it.
The songs that follow are similarly well-written, primarily introspective tunes that harken back to another era. On second, third and fourth listens, however, the time-out-of-place quality of the music slips into sheer timelessness. Melodies rise and fall, twirl and swirl, barrel forth and pull up, all while Molly’s honey-dewed vocals define “honey-dewed.” And there are moments, such as on the chorus of “Don’t Let Go,” where her voice slides into an upper register, that belie words – they’re aural beauty set to song, just about.
She does something similar in “Sleepwalking,” another high point.
Make no mistake, however: This isn’t just an album of just mid-tempo and slower delights. NPR’s Jewly Hight equates “Light Came In (Power Went Out)” to power pop in her review, and it is that while simultaneously being more than that. It’s a tour de force…
… as is “Take the Journey.”
I’d say the same about the album as a whole. When I’m driving in my car, I don’t want it to end. And when it does? I hit play again. That should say it all.