This week we travel back to 2019 to revisit an acoustic-ish and bluegrass-esque show featuring The Infamous Stringdusters and Molly Tuttle. Nick also has a chat with Maria Rose Belding about the value of donating food and paying employees a living wage.
The Infamous Stringdusters
The Infamous Stringdusters are a progressive acoustic/bluegrass band. The band first emerged in 2006 with the limited release of a five-song extended play CD The Infamous Stringdusters, followed in 2007 by their first album Fork in the Road. Both of these were on Sugar Hill Records. The band consists of Andy Hall (Dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Chris Pandolfi (banjo), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), and Travis Book (double bass). The band has become known for a complex, distinctive, and groove-friendly sound along with a bluegrass theme.
The Infamous Stringdusters won three awards at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards Ceremony in October 2007: Emerging Artist of the Year, Album of the Year for Fork in the Road (in a tie with J.D. Crowe & the New South’s album Lefty’s Old Guitar), and Song of the Year for the album’s title cut. The band was also nominated for 2011 Entertainer of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
In 2011, “Magic No. 9” (from Things That Fly) was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. In 2018, they won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. In 2021, the band was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Bluegrass Album category for their album “A Tribute to Bill Monroe.”
Tuttle grew up in California in a musical family, performing at festivals with her father and two brothers. As a young girl, she took violin lessons but eventually grew more interested in playing guitar. Fortunately her father Jack Tuttle is a noted instructor in the Bay Area. “My dad brought me home a little guitar and he would sit with me whenever I wanted to play it and show me something,” she recalls. “He was really encouraging, and I think that’s what made me stick with the guitar. I liked having a fun thing to do with my dad and practicing didn’t feel like a chore.”
By the age of 11, Tuttle was attending bluegrass jams and decided that she wanted to do more singing. She took voice lessons from one of her neighbors, a classical vocal coach who taught proper technique without sacrificing phrasing. As a young woman interested in bluegrass, Tuttle admired bold songwriters like Hazel Dickens and looked up to Bay Area bluegrass musicians such as Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick.
As Tuttle matured, her musical tastes soon ranged from Bob Dylan and Gillian Welch to The Smiths and Neko Case. Because she kept seeing Townes Van Zandt referenced to by songwriters she admired, Tuttle dug into his catalog and found “White Freightliner Blues.” Her own exceptional rendition has become a showcase for her nimble playing, as well as a graceful nod to her musical heroes. And the circle continues; her own instructional videos of the song online have been discovered by the next generation of pickers, who look to her as a role model and for inspiration.
“I love seeing any young person trying to play one of my songs or just learning something from me,” she says. “One of my goals is to inspire the next generation, especially young girls, to play guitar. I think if girls see a woman doing something, it helps them think, ‘I can do that, too.’”
After graduating from high school in Palo Alto, Tuttle enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied in the American Roots Music Program, focusing on guitar performance and songwriting. “In my time at Berklee,” she says, I developed much better understanding the fingerboard, so that gave me the freedom to play more of what I heard in my head and to try to play something that was meaningful to me.”
Since appearing on eTown, Molly has won “Female Vocalist of the Year” at the IBMAs as well as a Grammy Award for “Best Bluegrass Album” and the “Album of the Year” award from the International Folk Music Awards for her 2022 album Crooked Tree.