Holler Country Music

The Best Molly Tuttle Songs

July 19, 2023 11:06 am GMT
Last Edited November 25, 2023 6:28 pm GMT

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A fierce flatpicking virtuoso, expressive vocalist and nuanced songwriter, Molly Tuttle is a musical powerhouse.

Raised in California and based in Nashville, bluegrass — the category in which she won her first Grammy for 2021’s Crooked Tree — is her pedigree, but she’s musical omnivorous, flirting with pop, country and alternative over a series of critically acclaimed albums.

Here is Holler's list of 15 of the best Molly Tuttle songs.

Compass | 2017

Good Enough

An infectious highlight from her crowdfunded EP, Rise, ‘Good Enough’ sees Tuttle’s assured flatpicking come to the fore as she sings of keeping dark thoughts in check. “There comes a time to say that's good enough”, she sings, “I'm finally learning how to let some doors stay shut / It gets so hard but I'm not giving up.”

Nonesuch | 2022

Grass Valley

Among Tuttle’s writing strengths is her ability to authentically evoke place, which she does with this tender-hearted ode to the music festivals that shaped her as a young girl learning from her musician father. “I remember when I first drove with my dad up to Grass Valley,” she sings. “I was 10 years old and happy.”

Compass | 2021

Strong Enough

Tuttle is as skilled an interpreter as she is an original songwriter. Her gorgeous rendition of Sheryl Crow’s 1990s chestnut on the ...but I’d rather be with you, too EP, with fellow songwriter/guitarist Madison Cunningham, is both faithful to the original (Tuttle’s light soprano sounds surprisingly similar to Crow’s here) and future-forward.

Nonesuch Records | 2023

San Joaquin

A bluegrass tour de force and guided tour of California, ‘San Joaquin’ name-drops a list of storied towns across the Golden State — the broad subject of 2023’s City of Gold - in this barn-burning, stringed instrument romp about a train line, and nicely encapsulates her band Golden Highway’s exuberant energy and considerable talents.

Nonesuch | 2023

White Rabbit

Tuttle and company band give a head-spinning, newgrass treatment to the 1967 Jefferson Airplane classic. An homage to their shared San Francisco Bay Area roots, their playing is as psychedelic as the mysterious mushroom and Alice in Wonderland scenes referenced in the song lyrics.

Compass | 2017

Super Moon

If anyone wonders how Tuttle garnered the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award two years running and Instrumentalist of the Year at the 2018 Americana Music Awards, listen to ‘Super Moon,’ from her Rise EP, an instrumental demonstration in drop-D of her jaw-dropping prowess.

Compass | 2020

She's a Rainbow

A standout from Tuttle’s Tony Berg-produced quarantine cover project …but I’d rather be with you, turns the Rolling Stones classic on its head. Tuttle reinterprets the song from a feminine — and feminist — perspective, celebrating diversity and gender equality amid a flurry of kaleidoscopic finger-picking.

Compass | 2019

The High Road

Tuttle writes about love and relationships as incisively as she does about place. In this clear-eyed folk ballad about surrendering to a relationship’s demise, she is vulnerable but hardly fragile as she sings “We walked through the fire / Broken and burned / Even our desire / Couldn’t get us to the other side.”

Nonesuch Records | 2023

Next Rodeo

Inspired by her life of constant touring and co-written with her bandmates and songwriter Melody Walker, ‘Next Rodeo’ is as much celebration of musical camaraderie as a kiss-off song. Here, Tuttle is a sassy, self-assured cowgirl who “doesn’t have time to dosey-do” for just any cowboy, preferring to “hitch her wagon to a shooting star” as fiddles fly.

Compass | 2019

When You're Ready

Tuttle packs both clarity of tone and empathy into her vocal performance on this earworm of a title track from her acclaimed 2019 release. A co-write with Kyle Ryan, who also plays piano on the track, Tuttle’s voice quavers but doesn’t break as she packs a wallop of emotion into the chorus.

Nonesuch Records | 2023

El Dorado

‘El Dorado’from 2023’s City of Gold is a story song about the California Gold Rush that’s pure fun. Filled with vividly rendered characters (a la Gold Rush Kate, Redwood Bill and Bad Luck Dave) and rip-roaring fiddle, mandolin and guitar runs, its refrain — “El Dorado, woo-hoo-hoo’— is ripe for a sing along.

Nonesuch | 2022

She'll Change

‘She’ll Change' esteems the charms of a powerful woman and could double as Tuttles musical mission statement —“She can paint the sun at midnight / Roll out the moon at the break of day / One woman, many wonders / One road, many ways” — underscored by her lightning fast bluegrass runs.

Nonesuch | 2022

Dooley's Farm (with Billy Strings)

Tuttle has a knack for finding the sweet spot between traditional bluegrass forms and her decidedly modern sensibility. Here she puts a newgrass spin on an old moonshine song, drawing equal inspiration from her farmer grandfather and the current illicit crop — “They used to grow tobacco then they made moonshine, but there's something better in the back of the barn”— keeping folks lit.

Compass | 2019

Take the Journey

Tuttle has a wisdom about her that is both beyond her years and completely believable, epitomized by ‘Take the Journey,’ (co-written with Sara Siskind), where she gives timeless advice. “Take the journey/no matter where it starts and ends,” she sings as she echoes the vocal melody on clawhammer guitar.

Nonesuch | 2022

Crooked Tree

The title track of her Grammy winning bluegrass album is informed by Tuttle’s own experience — she’s lived with alopecia since childhood. Using the metaphor of the ‘crooked tree' that won’t fit into the mill machine and are left to live wild and free, the song is an upbeat anthem to self-acceptance despite one’s uniqueness.

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Written by Deborah Crooks
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