Artist: Tift Merritt
Album: Stitch of the World
Label: Yep Roc
Release Date: 01/27/2017
Tift Merritt has gone through some life changes since her last solo release, 2012’s Traveling Alone. So, this, her sixth studio project, comes rather highly anticipated. The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter still carries plenty of clout, as evidenced her rapid rise up the Americana charts before the release date. The session musicians are acclaimed too. Twin guitar lines from the ever inventive Marc Ribot and pedal steel standout Eric Heywood color the tracks. Jay Bellerose’s drumming is often prominent and arresting at times. And, Merritt’s sweet, sultry alto is, as usual, in fine form.
The album was written on a friend’s farm in Marfa, Texas, at Merritt’s California cabin, and in New York City where she had been living until her recent divorce. She collaborated with long-time friend Sam Beam of Iron & Wine after an accidental meeting in an airport. The album was recorded in Los Angeles while she was six months pregnant, after which she returned to her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
It’s not that Merritt stayed away from music; she just hadn’t found the time, or maybe even the inspiration, to do her own album until now. In the interim, she has recorded and toured with Andrew Bird in his Hands of Glory band and MC Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger, and put out a classical album, Night, with pianist Simone Dinnerstein.
The rather economical ten tracks are all penned by Merritt except for “My Boat,” which is adapted from a poem by Raymond Carver. The album’s first single and leadoff track, “Dusty Old Man” is a bluesy shuffle, giving the initial impression that this might be a bouncy album in the vein of Tambourine. However, there are ballads, introspective passages, and a whole range of emotions from heartbreak to joy over the course of the 38 minutes. The energy of “Dusty Old Man” is balanced by Merritt’s piano-driven “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb,” which begins softly before building into a steady chorus-driven tempo. The title track is a rather ethereal piece containing some of her best poetic lyrics. For example:
“White is the quick of the loom and the pin/Red is the mark where the needle comes in/As it weaves through your heart, try not to be scared/Just a bird on a string in a blanket of air.” “Icarus” has a similar feel, while the last three tunes are done with Sam Beam, who duets on “Something Came Over Me.”
Welcome back, Tift Merritt. This probably won’t excite us like her breakthrough debut, Bramble Rose, because we’ve become familiar with Tift as one of Americana’s distinctive voices. In places it’s slick, making one long for the earlier days. Nonetheless, it’s rewarding to see the maturity in her approach and her deft, often subtle musical touches.