The Tuttles with AJ Lee Pick In the New Year
The Tuttles are that rare family that revel in one another’s company. Rarer still, is a family as musically talented. Their namesake band, led by Jack Tuttle, bassist, vocalist, and father to most of his Tuttles bandmates, is a testament to a musical family lineage. Jack, who learned music from his own father, has long been an influential player and teacher to many notable California bluegrass musicians in addition to his exceptionally talented offspring: daughter Molly on guitar, banjo and vocals; sons Sullivan on guitar and vocals, and Michael on mandolin. Everyone began playing music as children, and their show at The Freight & Salvage in early January, along with their musical comrade A.J. Lee on vocals and mandolin, was a display of virtuosity as much as a hometown family reunion.
“This is first time all of us our adults,” noted Jack to an appreciative crowd, “We’re no longer a kid’s band.”
The Tuttles, and Lee, who they first met in 2004 and started performing together in 2008, may have started young, but their playing has always been mature beyond their years. Picking up Best Band awards three times from The Northern California Bluegrass Society, along with numerous individual awards, all, together and individually, are now well on their way to expansive musical careers.
Molly, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and transplant to Nashville, commands an impressive music palette containing exceptional flatpicking skills, a lilting singing voice and a penchant for writing vivid lyrics. A Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting award winner who attended Berklee on multiple scholarships, the songs she led at the Freight ranged far beyond her bluegrass roots, standouts in a set of all-round nimble playing and sincere singing.
“Some days it’s wide open,” she sang on “Friend of a Friend,” a song about the troubadour’s lifestyle, “some days it’s a dead end.”
It was an evening of graceful taking turns: Jack harmonizing with Molly; Sullivan’s deep voice surprising on a dark song, a co write with his father, about lockdown; and continual trading of blistering solos (fittingly, one of Jack’s compositions was called “Furnace Creek”). Meanwhile, Michael, the only one onstage without a vocal mic, let his highly expressive mandolin weave its own magic throughout.
Still, it was Lee, whose own strong and soulful voice added yet another tone to the band’s musical spectrum, who brought the tears to the stage, breaking up during her own “Old White Horse” about a much loved stead that had to be put down. The performance was the emotional high point of the already heartfelt show. As the rest of the band held space for Lee to gather herself, all the while holding the line of the song, Molly dipping into an impromptu banjo part to fill in as needed, the musicians’ love and respect for one another was palpable.