Overview:

You're living in unusual times when the best bluegrass guitarist is a young woman from Palo Alto, California.

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Twenty-nine-year-old Molly Tuttle is the best bluegrass guitarist in the world right now, and that’s never happened before, not to Molly or to any other woman east or west of the Appalachian mountains. (Don’t you dare miss the videos of her playing below.)

Bluegrass music, since its inception in the 1940s, was a man’s world, from the banjo to the upright bass to the mandolin to the flat top guitars to the vocals.

But it was only a matter of time (80 years for this particular genre) before women ascended, as women have done in every other field of human endeavor, like politics, law, education, medicine, entertainment, athletics, art, theater, dance, literature, classical music.

Molly was raised about as far from the grasslands of Kentucky as an American can be raised, coming up in Palo Alto, California in a neighborhood near Stanford University and 30 miles south of San Francisco. It was an unlikely place to take up the bluegrass guitar. But her father, a player himself, provided the impetus.

Molly developed an unusual gift for flat-picking and cross-picking her instrument. In the guitar world, a player can be better with one hand than the other: better at picking, or better at fingering the notes. Molly’s picking hand is an otherworldly thing of the gods (and her other hand, come to think of it, is no less deified). She also writes and sings her own songs, along with older standards.

She has been nominated for five honors in the 2022 Bluegrass Awards ceremony: Entertainer of the Year; Album of the Year; Female Vocalist of the Year; Guitar Player of the Year; and Instrumental Group. If I was voting, I’d cast my lot for Molly Tuttle in all five categories.

This is a young woman you should meet, get to know, and listen to:

The PBS Interview

YouTube video

With An Old Martin Guitar

YouTube video

With Billy Strings Playing Fender Guitars

YouTube video

Singing And Playing ‘Gentle On My Mind’

YouTube video

Molly With Her Band

YouTube video
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J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religion since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic journals and the LA Times, Huffington...