Today marks the long-time-coming release of Hell or Highwater. This album has had a strange journey since the backing tracks were first recorded on February 17th, 2004. It was the first time I “experimented” with the old school technique of filling a room with great musicians, giving them simple instructions and recording what happens. In about 10 hours of recording, we captured all 10 of the instrumental backing tracks. I had a room full of trusted friends with talent to spare. Jeramy Koepping was at the board, and he captured the performances with skill, while I played piano in the live room with Josh Ottum on guitar, and long-time Dolour collaborators Phil Peterson playing upright bass, and Paul Mumaw on the drums.

I must have been in some sort of race with myself in those days. I remember the day we recorded Hell or Highwater was the day that New Old Friends arrived from the CD manufacturers. And that’s where the first stumbling block came in. Dolour’s 3rd LP (New Old Friends) hadn’t even been released yet and now I was lapping myself with Hell or Highwater. Looking back, maybe I should have slowed down a bit to see these records through, but I could feel myself developing as a songwriter and artist and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to capture these moments in time. By the time New Old Friends was officially released (through Made in Mexico Records) in November 2004, Hell or Highwater was already over 6 months old in my mind, and I was already considering the next move. Made in Mexico suggested, given the short length of HoH, that I record more songs for it, which would also give them a chance to delay the release. Not a bad idea, but never wanting to look back, I ended up recording Storm & Stress in early 2005 which took Dolour to a completely different place musically.

Although many people saw the Traveling Mercies’ exploration of Americana, gospel and blues as a 180 from the sunshine pop of early Dolour, one listen to Hell or HIghwater and you see this is the missing link. Elements of country, rockabilly, blues, and gospel began to surface through the filter of the jazzy-baroque-pop-ish arrangements.

Years went by, and I continued Dolour in a very on-again/off-again fashion, but when I received an offer from Japanese label, Quince Records to release Hell or Highwater (coupled with Storm & Stress which was also still unreleased at the time), it gave me the chance to finally put this music behind me. This “double album” was released on CD in Japan (and very few American retailers) in September 2007 as The Years in the Wilderness. I was very focused on my new project, The Traveling Mercies, and didn’t really pay much attention to it’s release. Although I loved the artwork by Toby Liebowitz (who has just done the new Fleet Foxes album cover), I was never really comfortable with HoH being attached to S&S, feeling that each record was made to stand on its own. With November 2010’s digital debut of Storm & Stress and now Hell or Highwater, I’ve separated these “fraternal twins.” Now you can enjoy these albums as they were intended – on their own. I love how my brother Brandon Tutmarc’s new artwork (featuring photos he took during the studio session), takes me back to that long – but very creative – day I spent with Jeramy, Josh, Phil and Paul.

I hope this (admittedly long-winded) back story gives you a little perspective on this album, that I feel was a big turning point for me. But more than anything I want you to just close your eyes, turn off the lights and enjoy the music!

Chattanooga tonight…

Come on out to our first Chattanooga show tonight. It should be a good one too, as it is the CD release show for James Leg (Black Diamond Heavies), and it also features local favorites Bohannons and Duquette Johnston. Also tonight at the show, Alabama’s The Gum Street Killers will be taking donations for the recent Alabama tornado victims, so come on out and rock and roll for a good cause.

Related reading…

Chattanooga Pulse – Music Feature


We just set up a mailing list that you can now join! In addition to up-to-date info about shows, releases, and other points of interest – we will be providing list-ers with exclusive mp3 downloads, video clips, and other goodies. And don’t worry about us “spamming” you with irrelevant show info. For instance, if you live in Seattle we will not be flooding your inbox with info our shows around the South. So include your zip code, and we’ll make sure the right info is targeted to you.


Take a look at the shows we have coming up. If you live in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Bowling Green, or our hometown of Nashville we are playing near you!

We’ve been happy to have Larry Vance of Blood On the Bluegrass join our team helping with booking. Congratulations are in order too, as yesterday Larry became a daddy. Congrats, Larry!

RIP Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was a beacon of light for me in my early adolescence. I started playing guitar at 10 years old, only vaguely aware of the storm that was brewing in my hometown of Seattle, WA. Although barely old enough to be considered part of the “X” generation, Kurt Cobain was the first musician from my era that really inspired me to sit down and write my own songs. He felt like a natural transition from my obsession with John Lennon. Through his generous accolades of underground music like Os Mutantes, The Vaselines and Daniel Johnston, I developed my own taste for record collecting and seeking out sounds outside of the mainstream. But his early death left me with so many questions. I still wonder where his life and music would have gone had he not put such an abrupt end to it.

It’s A Wonderful Life: Return of Grunge Pioneer Kurt Cobain

In tribute to the 17th anniversary of his passing I wrote an “alternate history” which tells the story of what could have been. I hope you enjoy this happy ending to such a tragic musical revolutionary.


We are in the running for Artist of the Month over at Nashville’s The Deli Magazine website. The site focuses on local indie music scenes and emerging artists (to quote their website). The winner of this contest gets their picture and a link at the top of The Deli’s homepage for two weeks (apparently the most clicked part of the site), which would give us great exposure in my adopted hometown of Nashville.


So far we have a strong lead, but the contest continues for two weeks, so please take the 5 seconds to vote for us at the Deli’s Nashville Artist of The Month poll, and spread the word!

Bringing Y’all Up To Speed

Hey there – I hope you are exploring this great new website that my brother Brandon Tutmarc has designed. You can now stream every release, and get up-to-the-minute show information, as well as dig through old press clippings and photos. There are updated featured videos, and I will be doing my best to keep you all abreast with current and upcoming information.

When I first moved out to Nashville, a little over a year ago now, I journaled the journey with my blog Through These Eyes. You can see my old posts there, but I will now be doing all my story telling right here at shanetutmarc.com.

In December, through MusicReleaser.com, we “released” a new 5-song EP titled, So Hard to Make An Easy Getaway. Head over to that site to see a video of me explaining how the site works, and sign up for a free account, which gives you access to our new EP for absolutely no charge.

I just returned from a 2 1/2 week trip to the Great Northwest. It was refreshing to catching up with friends and family out there. I had my brother, Brandon, back on the drums (like the Traveling Mercies days) and Rian Lewis on bass. Rian is a longtime friend from Portland, who keeps himself busy producing and performing with a variety of artists in his hometown. The first show was magic. I was invited to participate in a tribute to the late great Townes Van Zandt at the Tractor Tavern on March 7th. The original concept was a bunch of solo artists taking turns performing their favorite Townes songs, but after we all got together, it ended up being a very collaborative show. I ended up playing bass and singing harmonies during Kevin Large’s set, while Sera Cahoone played drums. During my set, I had Justin Davis on lead guitar, Star Anna on tambourine, and Scott Farley (host of Bellevue College’s KBCS radio show, The Outskirts) on bass! To help promote the Townes tribute, Star Anna, Justin Davis, and I were on Marty Reimer’s podcast (which was also broadcast through Seattle’s The Mountain radio station). And later that day, I joined Star and Justin on KBCS‘s The Outskirts.

On Friday, March 11th, I was able to reconnect with former KEXP DJ, Larry Metro on Hollow Earth Radio, which was a fun, very relaxed show. Next up, on March 16th along with my brother and Rian Lewis, we played Portland’s Bing Lounge for a KINK fm radio broadcast. The whole show was also filmed, and the current “featured video” in the bottom right corner of this page is the interview portion of the show. You can find the rest of the performance on KINK’s YouTube page. That night we performed at Mississippi Studios, probably my favorite Portland venue.

And finally, on March 16th, I was back at the Tractor Tavern, but this time with the full band. Playing the Tractor is always a good time, and it was a great opportunity to get a bunch of friends and family out.

Now I am back in Nashville, TN and looking forward to a busy week of shows. We’re playing the Mercy Lounge for the first time on Monday as part of their weekly “8 Off 8th” showcase, on Wednesday the 30th, we get the opportunity to open for the great Dex Romweber Duo, and on Saturday we are performing at the annual Pancakes & Booze Art Show! We already have some dates lined up through May, and we are looking to be doing more regional touring this Spring and Summer.

Keep your eyes here for more updates. Now that I’ve caught you up a bit, I can write something more bite sized next time.