Country Music People May 2019 - Page 37

MOLLY TUTTLE When You’re Ready  1/2 JAKE OWEN Greetings From… Jake Owen  1/2 Million Miles / Take The Journey / Make My Mind Up / When You’re Ready / The High Road / Don’t Let Go / Light Came In (Power Went Out) / Messed With My Mind / Sleepwalking / Sit Back And Watch It Roll / Clue Producer: Ryan Hewitt Compass 40:35 For several decades Jack Tuttle has been playing and teaching bluegrass instruments in the Bay area and he has written several instruction manuals. He has also taught his own children, Molly, Sullivan and Michael, who are performers in their own right and Molly was the first female to be acclaimed the Bluegrass Guitar Player of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Last year she was named the Instrumentalist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards for her seven song EP or mini-album, Rise. Now 25, Molly has recorded with her father but the perfectly-titled When You’re Ready is her first solo album. It has been produced by Ryan Hewitt, who has worked the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jamie Cullum, and is released on Alison Brown’s Compass label. I expected this to be a red-hot bluegrass record but it is more AOR and a long way from bluegrass. Molly is not working with her road band as on Rise, but with session players, largely chosen by Hewitt. Nothing wrong with that per se but it has taken her music from bluegrass to rock and I think she has lost some of her individuality in the process. The album starts superbly with two fine songs – first the love song, Million Miles, with backing vocals from Jason Isbell, and then Take The Journey, which is very infectious and attractive but I do prefer the acoustic version which Molly has put on YouTube. I thought “The rain inside is still gonna fall” was a neat line. My favourite track Light Came In suits the fuller production and overall it sounds like a Mike Oldfield performance, sung by a woman of course. Don’t Let Go has some good contrasts too, but the vocal, mimicking Kate Bush in parts, sounds like affectation and some of the other songs sound like, well, sleepwalking. This is a polished and well produced album but something has been lost in the process, maybe a little bit of soul. It is not a mistake to move away from bluegrass but there should have been a couple of tracks in that vein. Spencer Leigh Down The The Honkytonk / Ain’t Here To Talk / Catch A Cold One/ I Was Jack (You Were Diane / Grass Is Always Greener / Homemade / Drink All Day / That’s On Me / Senorita (feat. Lele Pons) / In It / River Of Time / Made For You / Mexico In Our Minds / Damn Producer: Joey Moi Big Loud Records 45:43 This is Jake Owen’s first album since parting ways with RCA and finds him paying a tribute to his home state and a “fresh hello.” His producer is Joey Moi, who has produced Owen before but is best known in country circles for his work with Florida Georgia Line. That shows here quite often – there’s even a track on which FGL’s Brian Kelley gets a writing credit – but what also shows rather too often is Moi’s previous history as Nickleback producer. The writers tend to be the names that are on just about every major label album these days, Pinson, DeStefano, Laird, McAnally etc., and most of the songs sound made by numbers with a view to getting on country radio. However, when Owen is in his most beachy vibe, such as on Drink All Day (that’s the one with Brian Kelley on the credits btw) he is at his best and I couldn’t help wishing the whole album was in that kind of groove rather than the genuinely horrible track with Kid Rock, Grass Is Always Greener. His Mellencamp-inspired and heavily influenced I Was Jack (You Were Diane) was the first single nearly a year ago. A blatant attempt to cash in on the whole Springsteen/Mellencamp nostalgia that country music loves so much, I’d rather listen to John Cougar. Señorita is pure pop with a hint of Latin – you know, like was all the rage a year or two ago. It features Lele Pons (yeah, I had to look her up as well) who was host of the Mexican version of The Voice (La Voz). It ain’t country, heck, it ain’t even country from another country, but it’s pleasant enough. I also rather liked In It, and the trying to be soulful That’s On Me, despite being a tad contrived, but like some of the other songs here it’s one of those songs that likes to reference ‘country things’ like Cash or Jack without being actually country at all. The opener and a single towards the end of last year, Down To The Honky Tonk, is another. Owen can go on all he likes about going down to that honky tonk but that will never make this a honky tonk record. It is, however, really catchy, and a fine slice of commercial pop country. He’s at it again on Ain’t Here to Talk, saying how “these boys don’t know how to two-step, let’s show them how to honky tonk” in a song that sounds more like it was made for a line dance in 1995 than it was for “sliding like a steel guitar.” Towards the end of the album Owen seems to get rather more laidback and more in the feel of how the whole album possibly should have been. Jake Owen’s vocals are likable and the singles (I Was Jack and Down to The Honkytonk) have done reasonably well on the country charts so maybe he hasn’t drunk his last margarita quite yet. Duncan Warwick MAY 2019 - cmp 37