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TIFT MERRITT —TRAVELING ALONE (Yep Roc)

http://www.tiftmerritt.com

 http://www.yeproc.com

North Carolina songbird, Tift Merritt’s fifth studio album Traveling Alone is the singer-songwriter’s to date. Recorded in Brooklyn in only eight days the New York resident manages to take her music to another level, such is the consistency of her material, playing and vocals. For there is a spark present greater than previous as producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists), My Morning Jacket, Spoon) has the likes of Eric Heywood (The Jayhawks, Son Volt, Alejandro Escovedo, Ray LaMontagne), Marc Ribot (guitars, maxophone, ukelele) and John Convertino (drums, percussion) join Jay Brown (bass, harmony vocals) who has been with Merritt for 14 years. Plus there are guest slots from Andrew Bird, Rob Burger and Tony Scherr —that of Bird, especially makes has a big impact.

 

Merritt’s smart work as a songwriter ensures the album kicks away in great fashion. The musicians are in top form too as five prize tracks come straight off the bat. Title track ‘Traveling Alone’ after a sombre opening, like a new day awakening as day breaks the lyrics spill forth as her observation of life gets to move amidst brooding steel guitar, fiddle, percussion and steady rhythm as she speaks of being raised in the heat of the American south, and of being out there travelling alone, and how she has learnt the world is mean (or can be). Of with her cigarettes and a pickup truck she leaves town to try her luck. She has always had a taste for travelling alone, a feel fueled touring in support of her music. Especially via her recent tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter who treated her, royally and ensured there was always a piano available for her to noodle on before a show; and it was here some of her songs were born.  

 

Of the opening run ‘Sweet Spot’ and ‘Feeling Of Beauty’ both hit a typical Merritt groove. As does the likes of the piano aided ‘In The Way’ and gentle ‘Small Talk Relations’ as she pounds out a measured rhythm that rises and falls as emotional points of the song are underlined. Merritt’s ability to both pen intelligent lyrics (as she reflects on life's ever changing cycle and people as they grow) and to either caress them or let things rip make her an artist who, like the things she covers of the album, life, are ever evolving. Going forward in a near forceful fashion ‘Still Not Home’ sounds like it was plucked from Emmylou Harris’ Hot band days. No kidding! It has all the traits, a strong driving rhythm, plus restless lead and steel guitar (Heywood) and Tift leading from the front and matching the rocking beat. What a fabulous effort.

 

As for her duet (‘Drifting Apart’) with genial act, Andrew Bird here again I am taken back in time. On this occasion it is Bird’s (Roy) Orbison-esque vocals that marry perfectly with Merritt. So good is the combination another from them can’t come too soon. With the benefit of more magical steel guitar etc it sparkles like a rare diamond, then again Tift Merritt (and Bird too) are precious talents more people need to know about. Classy. ‘Spring’ is a most interesting affair as Merritt speaks of the mystery of it alongside that of a lover’s touch to the accompaniment of feisty guitar and hard driven rhythm and though it goes on just long enough it is one of those songs with its guitar solos sure to go down well with her admirers. Be sure to check out Traveling Alone and her visit in November.  

 

                                                            Maurice Hope       

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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