Published Apr 04, 2019Molly Tuttle's new album is a classic case of gilding the lily. One of the stars of modern bluegrass, her second solo album has strayed a long, long way from bluegrass.
Tuttle's first solo recording, 2017's Rise, was a solid contemporary bluegrass album that showcased her considerable guitar playing talent. It even won her the International Bluegrass Music Association's award for guitar player of the year.
Two years later, this is a very different sound for Tuttle. It's much more polished and, dare I say it, overproduced. While her guitar playing is still excellent, it's often buried beneath a thick layer of excess instrumentation — sometimes a full electric band — and you seem to hear less and less of it with each track. Tuttle's singing style hasn't changed, but in this new format, her songs are more pop than bluegrass or folk.
And although the album features musical heavyweights such as Sierra Hull (mandolin) and Jason Isbell (backing vocals), you'd hardly know it, because they're lost in the mix. When You're Ready isn't a bad album, but so much has been polished away that it's not a particularly memorable one.
Bluegrass is a niche genre, and it's hard to blame someone for wanting to reach a larger audience. But what drew people to Tuttle's music to begin with was that delightfully dissonant combination of sweet singing and monster-shredder guitar playing, and that's just not what this album delivers. Here's hoping Tuttle plays to her base next time around, sheds the unnecessary trimmings, and makes an album worthy of the bluegrass guitar goddess she is. (Compass)