Photography by Jay Strausser
What do you get when you throw two recent Grammy-winning artists on stage together? Easy: one hell of a show!
This was the case when current Bluegrass Album of the Year holder Molly Tuttle joined previous winners The Infamous Stringdusters for a fiery set that ran through tunes from each artist's collections, along with a handful of choice covers.
The performance was far from the first time the two have collaborated in a live setting, the last occasion coming in November 2022 at the Moab Folk Festival in Utah. Nevertheless, Saturday night’s coming together marked the first time the two acts have done so for an entire set, and hopefully not the last.
The epic two-hour performance showcased what has made each a must-see in the worlds of Americana and bluegrass. From the Stringdusters' heady jams to Tuttle’s heartfelt songwriting and hellacious picking, not even a brief Florida rain prior to showtime could dampen the spirits of those lucky to be in attendance.
With over a dozen albums to their name, the Stringdusters incorporated many songs from throughout their catalog into the evening’s setlist, including a set opening ‘It’ll Be Alright’ (2010’s Things That Fly), ‘Light And Love’ (2014’s Let It Go), ‘Don’t Mean Nothin’’ (2012’s Silver Sky) and a set closing 'Fork In The Road' (2007’s Fork In The Road). However, two of their most profound efforts came during the heavenly harmonies of ‘Pearl of Carolina’ (2022’s Toward the Fray) and ‘Gravity’ (2017’s Grammy-winning Laws Of Gravity), the veteran bluegrass quintet taking the stage alone for the latter.
Photography by Jay Strausser
Tuttle had plenty of moments of to shine herself, both on Stringdusters' songs and her own. Several cuts from her latest project, the Grammy-winning Crooked Tree, made it onto the setlist, such as fan favorite ‘Dooley’s Farm’ and ‘Nashville Mess Around’.
Tuttle also championed all those in attendance under the park’s canopy of live oak and palmetto trees who are cut from a different cloth, with an emphatic rendition of the album’s title track. She followed it up later with ‘Big Backyard’, another story of inclusivity centered around the lines “Come on out to the big backyard / It ain't mine, it ain't yours, it's all of ours”, a fitting message for the wide-ranging cast of people present in Suwannee’s backyard throughout the festival weekend.
Each act’s own songs were far from the only stories on the setlist though. The group tore through traditional covers like ‘Paddy on A Turnpike’ and ‘Nine Pound Hammer’, along with reimaginings of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘White Freightliner Blues’, the Grateful Dead’s ‘Casey Jones’, Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ and Ola Belle Reed’s ‘I’ve Endured’ as an encore.
Whether it was through colorful covers or their own originals, the set provided further evidence of two acts at the top of their games; showing how, single-handedly, they are helping to make bluegrass music cool again.
The Infamous Stringdusters and Molly Tuttle both wield an unabashed appreciation for the folks who were shaping the genre before them, helping to bring together the old guard of bluegrass aficionados with more progressive and jam-oriented fans, something that was on full display on Saturday night.
The Infamous Stringdusters feat. Molly Tuttle Setlist at Suwannee Spring Reunion - March 25, 2023
It’ll Be Alright
White Freightliner Blues (Townes Van Zandt cover)
Light & Love
Don’t Mean Nothin’
Paddy On A Turnpike (traditional)
Nine Pound Hammer (traditional)
Pearl Of Carolina
Back Home Again (Stringdusters only)
Gravity (Stringdusters only)
Sirens (Stringdusters only)
Nashville Mess Around
Casey Jones (Grateful Dead cover)
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (Bob Dylan cover)
Fork In The Road
I’ve Endured (Ola Belle Reed cover)
For more coverage from Suwannee Spring Reunion 2023 and information for Suwannee Spring Reunion 2024, see below: