THE TUTTLES WITH A.J. LEE, ENDLESS OCEAN
THE TUTTLES WITH A.J. LEE
Back Studio Records
Family bands are the backbone of bluegrass music. From the Monroes to the Stonemans to the Cherryholmes, young pickers have honed their skills in the bosom of family. Jack Tuttle, a much-loved California fiddler, heads up this particular outfit, anchoring his teenagers Molly, Michael, and Sullivan, their friend A.J. Lee, and guest fiddler Brittany Haas with his steady bass playing and wisdom.
Perhaps you have already seen the Tuttles on YouTube. (“El Cumbanchero”!) If so, you will be happy to know that the precocious poppets have grown into tasteful, mature players. Molly picks her banjo and guitar solid, while A.J. Lee and Michael share inventive mandolin leads and occasionally twin each other. Sullivan, on guitar, still serves up some flash and pizzazz, but never at the expense of the song.
Now let me misquote an old saying: “Hot picking don’t last, good singing do.” Youngsters are always going to dazzle with instrumental prowess. The question is: Can they sing? On Endless Ocean, the answer is a resounding yes! A.J. and Molly, who share the lead vocals, have impressive young voices—pure and unadorned. A.J.’s voice is slightly husky. Folks familiar with church harmony would call her an “alto.” It’s hard to imagine that anyone could breathe new life into “Hickory Wind,” that favorite from the ’70s, but A.J. hits a home run here. Molly’s voice is on the lighter side with a bit of the breathy quality that is popular today. Few young singers, however, could tackle Hazel Dickens’ “A Few Old Memories” and make it work. Molly does, and her guitar intro is perfect. Other highlights include the haunting “Oh, Mandolin,” the showcase instrumental “Beaumont Rag,” and the barnburning “White House Blues.” With singing and picking like this, these young players are a welcome wave of the future. (Jack Tuttle, 211 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306, www.jacktuttle.com.)MHH
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