sat 13/07/2024

Album: AJ Lee & Blue Summit - City of Glass | reviews, news & interviews

Album: AJ Lee & Blue Summit - City of Glass

Album: AJ Lee & Blue Summit - City of Glass

Tight, light, airy and persuasive bluegrass-Americana from California

All aboard the Express Piranesi

In the world of popular music, tangential connections to success are profile-raising. They offer an immediate connection to an artist. It is beholden on me, then, despite not knowing it when I first enjoyed this album, to mention that rising Grammy Award-winning Americana star Molly Tuttle appears. She is guitarist-vocalist Sullivan Tuttle’s sister.

It speaks to the solid pleasures of City of Glass by Santa Cruz quartet AJ Lee & Blue Summit that the song in question, “I Can’t Find You at All”, written by the Tuttles' dad Jack, is not outstandingly ahead of the rest

Singing mandolin-player AJ Lee was part of the Tuttle family’s band, a bluegrass institution, as a child. Her band's debut album is most impressive for the joyous instrumental interplay with fiddler Jan Purat and the two guitarist-singers, Sullivan Tuttle and Scott Gates (NB. Pedants will note that two previous albums were self-released and/or on tiny micro-labels). The songs have an easiness and fulsome harmonies, albeit not all of them thrust themselves successfully into the memory.

As with much light-stepping country music, what sets the best songs apart, aside from the aforementioned instrumental virtuosity, is chewy lyrical wit and narrative tightness. Thus, the plethora of love songs really come to life when the words zing, as on “Bakersfield Clay” with its melancholy steel guitar, and the lovely “Seaside” with its intriguing opening couplet “There’s an oyster at the bottom of your glass/You must be crazy – who would ever order that?”.

Elsewhere, and away from love, sparks fly on cuts such as the biting “Solicitor Man”, the ruminative “Toys” ("The man that dies with the most toys wins”) and the entertainingly philosophical “Sick on a Plane”, likely the only song ever written – a  hoedown, at that - about the contrary feelings of begrudging sympathy and irritated resentment when one is sat next to someone who's visibly ill on a commercial flight.

Some songs are sung by AJ and some sung by the men. All acquit themselves well and City of Glass is an enjoyable listen but, in reality, just a teaser for their live shows which seem likely to be phenomenal. Let us hope they tour the UK soon.

Below: Watch AJ Lee & Blue Summit perform a fine smoky live version of "He Called Me Baby" from the album City of Glass

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