Ladies are once again in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week as we look at recent releases from Kathleen Edwards and Molly Tuttle. For the Ottawa-based Edwards, her new album Total Freedom is a comeback story of sorts. Her first album since 2012, it marks the end of a six-year period where Edwards walked away from music and performing in order to get her life straight. That period found her dealing with depression and then opening a coffee shop of all things. It was head-clearing for Edwards. The music-making bug bit her a few years ago when she was asked by country star Maren Morris, who was a huge fan of Edwards’ 2003 debut album Failer, to come to Nashville for a songwriting session. The session yielded the song “Good Woman” which made it onto Morris’s 2019 hit album Girl. It also got the juices flowing again for Edwards to give things another go in the music world with Total Freedom the result. It gets the look-see this week with Tuttle’s new release but I’d rather be with you. An award-winning wunderkind in the Americana acoustic music world for her instrumental prowess on guitar, the album is a collection of out-of-the-ordinary covers ranging from Rancid to The National and all recorded by the talented Tuttle during quarantine. Let’s take a look.
It has been since 2012 that there has been new music from the Canadian singer and songwriter Kathleen Edwards. That album, Voyageur, marked a departure from her prior Americana/country roots-oriented recordings into a more indie rock/pop thing. Produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame, it was Edwards’ highest charting album up to that time. Edwards first made a splash in the music world with her 2003 album Failer which catapulted her to a darling of the Americana and alt country world. Subsequent albums stayed on that path until Voyageur. For Edwards, the hope was it would break her beyond the Americana world and whereas it did succeed somewhat on that front, it did not to her satisfaction. She felt trapped. It all culminated in 2014 when Edwards quit music to reclaim her life. The ensuing period included dealing with depression and finally doing a complete 180 by opening a coffee shop in her Ottawa home. As she said in a recent interview on The Working Songwriter podcast, she felt total freedom and by her own account, “It was the best thing I ever did.” Now some six years after dropping off the scene and plenty of head clearing, Edwards returns with her latest album, not coincidentally titled Total Freedom. Musically and vocally, it’s as if she never missed a beat. The affirming collection of songs, 10 in all, are full of reflection from a person who has come to grips at this point in her life, especially as an artist. Look no further than the song “Birds on a Feeder” for affirmation of that personal place for Edwards. On it, she sings “I got birds on the feeder / I got dogs and they’re sleeping / I got total freedom / No one to need.” A song that wasn’t even planned to be included on the record, it sums up Edwards current state simply and beautifully. It is one of just many special moments on Total Freedom on what is a most welcome comeback. Visit www.kathleenedwards.com.
…but I’d rather be with you
Only in her mid-twenties, the awards garnered to date by guitarist Molly Tuttle, particularly in the Americana and bluegrass worlds have been plenty: “Instrumentalist of the Year” at the 2018 Americana Music Awards, two-time International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award winner, and 2018 Folk Alliance International Song of the Year for her song “You Didn’t Call My Name.” For all that bluegrassing and all, like most normal twenty-year-olds Tuttle’s own personal taste in music goes way beyond that. With her new album called …but I’d rather be with you, she brings together her mighty talents as a musician and singer for an all-covers album of some of her favorite songs. Recorded during quarantine while sheltering at home, like many people in that same situation, Tuttle found comfort by revisiting some of her favorite songs. An idea was born and it brings us …but I’d rather be with you. On it, Tuttle offers up her own spin on some of her favorite songs from a genre-crossing array of artists including The National (lead single and video “Fake Empire”), Grateful Dead, Rancid (“Olympia, WA”), Rolling Stones (“She’s a Rainbow”), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (“Zero”), Karen Dalton, Arthur Russell, Harry Styles, FKA Twigs, and Cat Stevens comprising the album’s 10 tracks and with Tuttle’s jaw-dropping flatpicking flourishes on guitar never far from the mix. “I wanted to share these covers that have lifted my spirits, in hopes that you’ll find some much-needed joy, as well,” says Tuttle. It sure lifts the spirits in this camp. Visit www.compassrecords.com.
Whereas live music inside clubs remains almost entirely on hold, outdoor options, as well as some indoor ones are starting to pop up. Chan’s Restaurant in Woonsocket (267 Main Street) is getting back into action with live music in the club on selected nights in a limited capacity setting. At press time, there were no scheduled performances for this weekend; however, you can check www.chanseggrollsandjazz.com/calendar.htm for the latest information. In South County, Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale is presenting live weekend shows on its front green abutting Kingstown Road as weather permits. Country music will be in the air on Friday evening with a twin bill featuring The Honk and Country DNA starting at 5:30. Deadheads should make tracks to the Pump House on Saturday for a day of music in the spirit of the Grateful Dead with Mystic Dead, Legion of Jerry, Keats & Co., and Acoustically Dead all performing starting at 1 pm. The weekend music concludes on Sunday afternoon with a jazz and blues summit featuring Dan Moretti and the Hammond Boys with special guest Sugar Ray Norcia beginning at 4:30 pm. Visit www.pumphousemusicworks.com/schedule for details. Also in South County, the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston is once again presenting live shows, but at a limited capacity due to COVID restrictions. Upcoming on October 10 is the James Taylor Experience: October Road. The Common Fence Music series based in Portsmouth continues live stream events on select Sunday evenings at 7 pm. Check their web site at www.commonfencemusic.org for upcoming events. The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River continues its weekly live stream direct from the Narrows stage. It happens every Friday evening at 8 pm. Ocean State-based tribute band-and-then-some Forever Young performs on Friday night. Askew in Providence (150 Chestnut Street) is also presenting a mix of indoor and outdoor entertainment. Upcoming events by the venue can be found at www.askewprov.com/upcoming-events.
Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.