Album Review: Labor of Lust by Kyle Tuttle

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Sunday, January 28, 2024

Switching buses from Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, Kyle Tuttle is now embarking on a solo journey with his latest album, Labor of Lust. This 11-track achievement pays homage to the jamgrass lore built on the shoulders of jamgrass giants like Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band. Kyle Tuttle has traversed the miles while maintaining his studio musician status in Nashville. Labor of Lust showcases what Kyle Tuttle adds to the equation by subtraction. All songs are written by Kyle Tuttle except 2 - one by Earl Scruggs and one by Harry Nilsson to close out the album. The evidence of Kyle’s road capabilities is evident in the grit, variety, and lyrical perspectives that shine bright on Labor of Lust.

Kyle Tuttle's Labor of Lust out 2/16/24 on all streaming platforms | Photo by Jake Cudek

The album kicks off with the poignant “Hard to Say,” a reflection on life’s fleeting moments. The banjo arpeggios are complemented with smooth siren violin fiddlesticks flickering with hemmed-in lyrics, “Knowing that it's gone & gone for good… makes you wonder what the hell you’re waiting on… when it seems like a short time to be here and a long time to be gone.” Themes of self-discovery are all over the album to my delight.

"During a rough time in my life, this song was sort of a message from me to me. From the me I want to be to the me that I was.  Grieving the loss of a friend, a marriage, and a job at the same time sounds like 90’s country song material, but “Hard To Say” is how it manifested in my life. After a reasonable amount of wallowing in sorrow, I eventually landed at “knowing that it’s gone and gone for good, makes you wonder what the hell you’re waiting on?” It’s like a request from somewhere way in the back row to keep the show rolling. Ask yourself the questions you need to ask, and then play another one. “It seems like such a short time to be here and a long time to be gone” - Kyle Tuttle

Kyle Tuttle | Photo by Jake Cudek

Tuttle brings a post-pandemic life after JA grit to these bluegrass songs. “I Wonder” poses existential questions and answers with a banjo buoy to save you from drowning. Reel time music helps relieve reality but Kyle Tuttle is someone who sounds like he struggles alongside us. Featuring Alec Speigleman on clarinet, “I wonder who will cry when I leave this old world.” It feels so much more personal than songwriters standing far away on tall stages. There’s pain and remorse, there is sorrow, of course. “I Wonder” winches the listener back onto steady ground.

Artwork by Logan Walker

“Trailer in Boulder County” captures the essence of the mountains. In the grand tradition of “40 Miles to Denver” or “Kentucky Skies” ya know? Up on the Hill where they do the boogie? “Trailer in Boulder County” offers diverse arrangements to display the palette of Tuttle’s style. “What you’re running from, no one needs to know.” Where the hippies go to dance and where no doubt, Kyle spent some time with Jeff Austin as the banjo player for JAB. Labor of Lust lays out like a journey through time and space stretching on into infinity and beyond.

Kyle Tuttle | Labor of Lust | Photo by Jake Cudek

Effortless Earl Scruggs’ “Ground Speed” stirs up another gone but not forgotten force of nature. Kyle picks right up where they left off and demonstrates his own keen sense of timing. I’ll be waiting to see the videos of Kyle playing “Ground Speed” to see if he can fluidly change left to right hands like Scruggs too. This and two other tracks on the album, “Scorch on the Porch” and “The Ghost That Loved Me” were recorded in 2018, seemingly a whole other dimension in time. They fit so well with the collection as a whole, it bears mentioning to realize the true collection of gems Kyle has curated with his album.

No banjo album would be complete without a tip of the hat to Mr. Earl Eugene Scruggs. He had a progressive side for sure, and I’d like to think the he would dig this version of his classic tune ‘Ground Speed’. I play an Ian Davison Electric banjo through a Fender tube amp on this one.  Duncan Wickel plays fiddle through a Leslie speaker here, and Max Johnson plays a burning hot fuzz electric bass solo, while James Kittleman holds us all together on the drum kit. We had just finished a short KTB run in the Fall of 2018 and we spent a day in the studio resulting in ‘Ground Speed’, as well as ‘Scorch On The Porch’ and ‘The Ghost That Loved Me’ from the forthcoming album Labor Of Lust” - Kyle Tuttle

Kyle Tuttle covers Earl Scruggs "Ground Speed"

“Scorch on the Porch” goes dark with its lyrics. Most of the lyrical content in Labor of Lust divulges a persistence that is less than wholesome. It’s as if it’s gone too far but it's too late to turn back now. It’s past the point of return even if Kyle’s stage persona makes it look like fun & games.

Kyle Tuttle | Photo provided by Omni Arts Group

The instrumental “Circularity” adds a dimension to the album, evoking a fisherman at a foggy dawn showcasing Tuttle’s versatility, seamlessly transitioning between bluegrass and experimental sounds. What is that sound? Is that a Chinese Zither? Is that a Korean guitar? The track listing simply says banjo, fiddle, bass, and drums. Could it be an envelope filter? Whatever it is it will fit nicely in a playlist between Blue Note jazz remixes and “Maybe We’re the Visitors” by Page McConnell.

Kyle Tuttle plays Colorado with Golden Highway | Photo by Jake Cudek

Right back into the roots of Tuttle’s bluegrass bread and butter, “Saddle Up” will be recognized by GSBG Pandora algorithms, no doubt. It’s got all the makings of a jamgrass long reprise song. At the 6-minute mark, it goes to crickets and boomerangs back in with the lyrics “If I ever make it out the other side of this.” “Saddle Up,” riding buggies into town with Kyle Tuttle sounds good. It’s hill-climbing suspense into drifting off delights.

The entire album has the potential for very compelling live performances. The studio versions are reaching 8 minutes with “Two Big Hearts.” Mainly instrumental until mid-song, Kyle’s Americana-style rapping comes on like sticky icky voodoo ladies in training. The dirty reverb turns back into picking and grinning when the coda imitates the intro, presenting the song with a big ol’ 8-minute bow on it. Kyle Tuttle’s live performances of these songs are sure to bloom on stage as they get some play time behind them.

Kyle Tuttle performing with Golden Highway | Photo by Jake Cudek

It will also be interesting to see the production value vs the live show. The last track concludes with a Harry Nilsson tune, “Turn on Your Radio.” The track was recorded at The Portal by Megan McCormick, who also plays bass on the track. Lindsay Lou does vocals for the last song as well. A pièce de résistance as the harmonies add a formulated touch to an album that beautifully weaves together pearls diamonds and a little coal to make a fine piece of musical craftsmanship. Labor of Lust has bridged Kyle Tuttle’s band member status into musical maven prominence.

Labor of Lust | Kyle Tuttle

Check out Kyle Tuttle’s second full-length album, Labor of Lust

Upcoming Labor of Lust Tour

2/15 Charleston, SC   Charleston Pour House

2/16 Asheville, NC     Asheville Music Hall

2/17 Nashville, TN     Eastside Bowl

2/18 Atlanta, GA         Aisle 5

2/21 Lexington, KY     The Burl

2/22 St Louis, MO        Old Rock House

2/23 Kansas City, MO  Knuckleheads

2/24 Ames, IA              Alluvial Brewing Co

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