I wasn’t aware that I was going to see Molly Tuttle. It had been a busy day. I had attended a couple of networking events; one at Aintree racecourse and another at the Anglican Cathedral. It was late evening and I was on my way to the Grateful Fred’s Session at the Atkinson Theatre in Southport to see an artist. Exactly who I was going to see, was still unknown to me. However, I was assured that I was already a fan. It was a surprise from my girlfriend. I hadn’t seen any promo because I hadn’t spent much time online. My mind began to sift through my cerebral database to identify who could be playing. My first line of enquiry was “Who’s still alive?”, next “Which one of my favourite musicians would be playing of venue of this size?” My mind kept drawing a blank.
Anyway, I had to wait a little longer before I found out. Nevertheless, the wait was made a little easier while I listened to the last couple of tracks by the duo on stage. They are called Limerence and comprise of Calum Gilligan and Jenny Coyle. Their voices blend together exceptionally well, their material is strong. Together, they emanated a warm, gentle stage presence, free of any pretence.
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By the time Calum and Jenny left the stage I’d almost forgotten the reason I was there. Then after a short interlude two female figures took to the stage; one clutching a banjo and the other an acoustic guitar. Molly Tuttle! and…? We’ll I’d discovered Molly by accident while looking at flat picking clips on Youtube. One particular clip, which blew me away, was a version of Townes Van Zandt’s White Freight Liner blues. I used to cover that song. I’m a big fan of Doc Watson and Clarence White to name but two, but to see someone so young playing that way was amazing. Up until this point, I wasn’t aware of who Rachel Baiman was but as soon as she sung her first note I was a fan. Her knack for combining catchy melodies with clever turns of phrase was immediately obvious; not to mention her fiddle and banjo playing, which were equally awe-inspiring.
The set began with a song, which Molly co-wrote with American Singer Songwriter Korby Lenker, called Friend and a Friend. This showcased how Molly and Racheal’s voices knitted together beautifully as did the instrumentation. Rachel switched from the fiddle to the banjo for a song called Shame with its lazy, infectious groove, which makes your head bob like a Churchill dog on a Sunday drive. The set was punctuated with a few short anecdotes; one about how Rachel had just bought a shack in Nashville with her Fiancé; a couple of doors down from John Hartford’s old house. Two of John’s tracks were given the Tuttle/Baiman treatment; Maddison Tennessee and Gentle on My Mind. Other highlights from the set were Something to lose, Never Tire of the Road (Andy Irvine) from Rachel’s album, Shame and Save this Heart from Molly’s album Rise.
It was a pleasure to see such pure musicianship. Molly Tuttle’s picking is so clean and precise; she can make the strings pop and ring without so much as a glance at the fretboard. Rachel’s Baiman’s fiddle playing cuts straight to the heart of a song adding an almost ethereal dimension to the music. The musical chemistry between these two artists is really something.
After the show we spoke to Molly and Rachel; bought a couple of CDs, which they kindly signed. They were quiet, humble and were open to small talk. They had been enjoying tea parties on their tour so far. I asked them about the microphone they used for the show. It captured the subtleties of the different instruments as well as their voices, culminating in one of the best live audio mixes I’ve possibly ever heard. As it turns out its called an Ear Trumpet Microphone. They retail at around $600.