Molly Tuttle | Credit: Courtesy Lobero Theatre

Triple Threat, Triple Promise

Generally, musicians making their way in the bright lights and byways of public affection bring one or two special qualities to the table, making up for shortcomings in one area with strengths elsewhere. But there are exceptions, of course, such as British folk-rocker Richard Thompson, whose wicked finery runs from his guitar playing to songwriting and his signature voice.

From Nashville by way of Northern California, here comes the organically and at least triply-gifted Molly Tuttle (pictured above), whose command as singer, songwriter and flat-picking guitar wizard (as well as other instruments) has landed her in a special place in the next generation of bluegrass heroes and heroines.

Tuttle showed up at SOhO back in late January, a glowing present to music lovers hungry to get out of the house and into a live house of music again. Tonight (November 3), Tuttle returns to town, this time bringing her band Golden Highway to the Lobero Theatre, that historic and ever-generous room (generous in many ways).

At the ripe young age of 29, Tuttle has already conquered the music world and various substations. After moving from her home zone of Palo Alto, where she was steeped in music as the daughter of busy musician-teacher Jack Tuttle, she headed to the Berklee College of Music and then made the logical move to Nashville. Among the awards on her mantle: Guitar Player of the Year at the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association — the first female winner (and she repeated in 2018) — and the 2018 Americana Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year.

Her discography ranges from burning bluegrass workouts to sensitive singer-songwriter fare and back, on her debut on the mighty Nonesuch album When You’re Ready and the cover collection …but I’d rather be with you, and possibly her finest work yet, on the new Crooked Tree.   

On the title song “Crooked Tree,” Tuttle tells a personal truth or two with the refrain “A crooked tree won’t fit into the mill machine/They’re left to grow wild and free/Oh I’d rather be a crooked tree.” The sentiment circles back to her own career, at once appealing to various listeners and audience demographics, but staking out her own claim as a singular artist. Aptly, the chorus itself takes a crooked turn, sneaking a quirky ¾ measure into the rolling 4/4 bluegrass groove machinery. Molly Tuttle goes her own way. Make that “ways.”

Conor Hanick performs at Hahn Hall | Credit: Zach Mendez

New Room for Sounds

On a fine summer Sunday morning in Ojai’s Libbey Bowl, ace pianist Conor Hanick delivered a highlight of this year’s Ojai Music Festival with his reading of Hans Otte’s legendary piece The Book of Sounds. The 1982 piece, with its 12-parts stretching over a 70-minute canvas, is a profound and deceptively simple sounding masterwork. Last week, Hanick reprised the pleasure in the very different, pristine setting of Hahn Hall, kicking off the Music Academy’s “Mariposa Series.” The magic returned, with a new and more refined patina.

While there are clear echoes of minimalism in the score, the overall architecture and language of the music is far-reaching, never penned-in by genre. Just when we are lulled into tranquil reverie, for instance, movements with slowly tolling polychords thicken the emotional plot. The mystical final movement leans into the harmonic world of Olivier Messiaen, closing on the suspended note of a five chord, making the musical and philosophical suggestion that this is not the end, but a pregnant pause point in an endless cycle. Life goes on. Ditto, The Book of Sounds.

For another example of a large piece made up of small parts — and this one far more famous — head over to the same venue of Hahn Hall on Friday night, when celebrated harpsichordist Jean Rondeau takes on J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Cafe Tacvba comes to the Arlington on November 6 | Credit: Live Nation

Mexican Café Society

The hearty fall harvest of live music in Santa Barbara continues, including a notably steady flow of strong shows at the Arlington Theater. This week’s Arlington zinger is the great, unique Mexican sensation Cafe Tacvba, on Sunday, November 6. An adventurous and free-ranging group, formed in 1989 but going strong, has a large songbook to draw from and puts on a cracklingly good live show.


For an evening of film clips reeling in the pop music years, hip quipsterism and other odd delights, be in your Lobero Theatre seat promptly at 6:52 p.m. on Saturday, when former record exec (president of Capitol, and more) Hale Milgrim serves up another of his Go to Hale programs, this one called “Quips & Clips, Sounds of Change” (see Independent feature story here).

SOhO’s calendar this week includes a visit by the always impressive SBCC Monday Madness big band — on Monday, November 7! — and Kimberly Ford’s luminous Joni Mitchell tribute project “Dreamland” lands there on Tuesday, November 8.

Contemporary classical fans (you know who you are) be alerted: Joao Oliveira is the new blood in the esteemed Corwin Chair at UCSB’s Music Department — a position previously held by notables William Kraft and Clarence Barlow. Oliveira’s “visual music opera” The 70th Week will have its premiere at a Corwin concert at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on Wednesday, November 9.

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