When You’re Ready
Country… for some reason the most divisive genre in the world.
Out of all the myriad forms that music can take, I know few that will instantly divide a room like country does. Friends of mine absolutely despise it, while I myself am quite a big fan. Obviously if you come from the States you’re likely to have experienced a much more positive milieu surrounding country and its associated culture than I would have in the U.K. Our equivalent, I suppose, would be folk music – more druids and hermits than cowboys and truckers, if I had to summarise the difference; more focused on nature in general than individual people as well. (Perhaps some of my Yankee brethren can tell me how apt my comparison is in the comments section). Folk music is a bit of a tree-hugging hippie thing, whereas the connotations of country are more to do with riding in flatbed trucks and falling in love with rosy-faced sweethearts but leaving them behind for a life on the road. It’s adventure based, right? It’s all about leaving home and finding your way in the world, travelling around and searching for love and purpose, ups and downs, stories of personal experience. That’s what I like about it. It’s relatable; that and you really will find some incredible musicianship on display.
My personal favourite country artists are Billy Strings, Shawn Mullins, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Steve ‘N’ Seagulls, The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, Tommy Emmanuel (when he feels like it), and the artist behind today’s album (got there in the end), Molly Tuttle. This record has captivated my attention for a while now, and I’ve listened to it many times over. I discovered Miss Tuttle through a guitar tutorial on Youtube for her song, White Freightliner Blues (a great track by the way, featuring some of the most yee-haw vocals I’ve ever heard). Since then I’ve discovered that she is a highly acclaimed guitarist and vocalist, having received many awards for such, and is well respected within the genre. She comes from a good heritage in this regard as her father, Jack Tuttle, is also a well known country musician. Molly in fact started playing with their family band, The Tuttles with AJ Lee, at the young age of fifteen, and has since gone on to make a successful solo career.
When You’re Ready is a wonderful taste of Americana for a Brit like me. When we discussed it on our podcast (which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz4RDuForwU&t=1s), I thought the best comparison made was to an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer manages a country singer named Lurleen Lumpkin. That episode is precisely the aesthetic that floods my mind when I’m listening to Molly Tuttle: lonely bars, empty roads, motel sixes, dust clouds on the horizon, and soulful songstresses singing out their hearts to an uncaring world. A beautiful image, in my opinion. I always liked that about America, the vastness of it. I think this album exemplifies all that. It has a certain pacing and tone, a relaxed and patient quality that makes me feel that I’m facing down an infinite stretch of open highway, desert hills on either side, nobody to keep me company but the music on the radio and maybe a dog or something.
One of the main criticisms that my friends levelled in our discussion was in fact that the album was too slow paced and relaxing, that it lacked excitement outside of a few tracks (mostly Take the Journey and Light Came In (Power Went Out)). I guess this is too subjective for me to really comment on, although I would add that elsewhere she does have more up-beat tracks like these, notably White Freightliner Blues and Friend and a Friend. The funny thing is I loved it for precisely that reason. I interpreted it as confident, calm, savouring, not boring or low energy. I’m one of those people who find it difficult to fall asleep in silence so I often play music instead, and I’ve found nothing as effective in that regard as this. The overall effect is one of relaxation, a silencing of my normally hyperactive mind. I’m drawn in and soothed by its dreamy, often doleful and dolorous tones, full of feeling and a texture of emotional clarity. There are plenty of other artists of every possible flavour to whom you can go to get your fix of hype-music. If you want it with country stylings I’d suggest Billy Strings or The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, and I’m sure there are countless more, but that’s not what we have here.
I don’t have a great deal more to say about it really. The instrumentals are spot on technically speaking, very understated and sparingly used. The guitar work is phenomenal, most notably in Take the Journey (my favourite song of hers for sure). Molly’s vocals are hauntingly beautiful, and I simply can’t get enough of them. Perhaps if I had one criticism it would be that the lyrics are somewhat poppy and generic. As was pointed out by one of my co-hosts, a love song entitled Million Miles is not the most mould-breaking way to begin an album. But in keeping with what I stated above about this genre and specifically this album focusing on very personal experiences and emotions I’d say that that’s OK. Funnily enough the things that are most important to most people are usually a little cliché. Go figure.
In summary, it’s the perfect album to which to lie on your back and watch the clouds drift by. On the podcast I originally gave it a score of 7, but I’m going to revise that here on the basis that I unwittingly allowed myself to be influenced a little by others’ opinions and scored the album down for being slow and calm when on reflection that’s actually exactly what I love about it. So, I’m giving this one a contextual score of 8 out of 10.
Thanks for reading.
Written – June 2020
Published – June 2020