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Tift Merritt – Another Country (2008)

Tift Merritt – Another Country (2008)
55 MB @ VBR Avg. 185 kbps, 43 min

I’m broken and I don’t understand
What is broken falls into place once again

On this, her debut album for Fantasy, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tift lets fly with 11 new original tunes crafted into her most cohesive and personal album to date.

The album is beautifully and elegantly produced by George Drakoulias and recorded by David Bianco.

The players include guitarists Charlie Sexton and Doug Pettibone and Tift’s longtime band, Zeke Hutchins (drums), Jay Brown (bass) and Danny Eisenberg (keyboards).

Inspiration for the songs on the album came when, after intensive touring, Merritt erased her grueling schedule and rented a flat with a piano in Paris’ 10th arrondisement planning to take time off.

Merritt describes the writing as a plain-spoken look at the distance we all attempt to cross: between two people, between one heart and the rest of the world.

Some glowing reviews here: the first step brings critical acclaim and the second garners Grammy consideration, what could be in line for North Carolina native Tift Merritt since a 2002 emergence that left critics scrambling for adjectives?

The talented singer/songwriter has often been miscast as a country artist, and Another Country is an opportunity to leave that moniker behind. She dips slightly into the genre, such as on the country rocker “Something to Me,” the lead track featuring guitarist Charlie Sexton and sweet organ trimmings from bandmate Danny Eisenberg.

From there the record sways into a flurry of styles, and Merritt never misses a beat. The blue-eyed soul of “Morning is My Destination” recalls Dusty in Memphis, while “Tell Me Something True” is an R&B nugget that has the breezy Merritt sounding eerily like Diana Ross. Elements of rock, folk, and blues pervade, and producer George Drakoulias (Black Crowes, the Jayhawks) stays out of the way, allowing Merritt’s voice to embody the songs, all 11 of which flow from start to finish, uninterrupted and primed for full-on stardom.

-Scott Holter

Review by Hal Horowitz: took Tift Merritt four years, a label change, and a sojourn to Paris, where she knew virtually no one and didn’t speak the language, to craft her third release. She recounts the Paris part of the story in the liner notes and the explanation clarifies both the disc’s title and reflective, personal songs such as “I Know What I’m Looking for Now” (“this world will mix you up and bring you down, but I know what I’m looking for now”).

Producer George Drakoulias returns from her last album, as does most of her touring band, but the sound is more muted and less insistent than on the Dusty in Memphis styled Tambourine. When horns do finally enter the picture on track eight, it seems like the Stax styled “Tell Me Something True” is a Tambourine leftover. Electric guitars are handled by ringers Charlie Sexton and Doug Pettibone but both stay on low boil for the majority of the disc, finally letting loose on “My Heart Is Free” near the end. The stripped down sound, reliance on ballads and mid-tempo strummers such as the opening “Something to Me” gives these songs, and especially Merritt’s luxurious vocals, room to breathe.

They marinate in their comfy country-folk strum, unconcerned about making a strong first impression, but rather letting their melodic and lyrical charms seep in gradually. The singer’s voice seems more fragile and sensitive than in the past but that suits the introspective nature of these 11 originals well. The notes make clear that the material was largely composed on piano, which explains the keyboard oriented sound underpinning the lovely title track and many of the slower tunes that dominate the set. There’s a sense of exhaling through the spaces on these songs, as if the sessions were a return to a less stressful approach. That fits the material, and especially Merritt’s velvety vocals, perfectly.

When all the elements combine, such as on the lilting “Morning Is My Destination” where Merritt’s voice connects with the more soulful aspects of the song, punctuated by gospel organ and stinging guitar fills, the effect is stunning. The closing cabaret ballad “Mille Tendresses,” sung in French, is a natural coda to an album that is not an obvious progression in Tift Merritt’s career, but one that comes from the heart and sounds it.

Sometimes you have to look backward to move forward, which makes Another Country ring with a personal touch. It resonates with emotion, tenderness, and a sense that she has found comfort in life and her songwriting that may have been missing before.
Pop Matters: Merritt’s last album, Tambourine, brought with it a mixture of blessings and curses. On the positive side, it was a young artist’s dream come true. Only two albums into her career, Merritt was working with the A-list of roots-rock: Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers, the respected producer George Drakoulias…

When the album finally came out, it was universally praised by critics who noted that Merritt could effortlessly jump from one genre to another, whether it be Memphis soul, Springsteen-style folk, rousing classic-rock, or plaintive alt-country. Add to this the fact that Tambourine was nominated for the 2004 Grammy for Country Album of the Year, and you can see that Merritt was one lucky young lady.

Or was she? After the critical accolades died down and Merritt toured the album for years, she was dropped from her label, Lost Highway. To be dropped from a label is difficult enough, but to be dropped from a label known for fostering true talent after releasing an album that was on every best-of list of 2004? That must have been hard to digest. When Merritt recently talked to PopMatters about her experience, she was nothing but gracious and thankful to her former label, but one thing was clear: something left her so tired and disillusioned that she briefly considered giving up music altogether.

In the end, this experience was rather fortunate. Renting a flat in Paris to relax and regroup, Merritt found that it is simply in her nature to turn her experiences and encounters into song. While the purpose of staying overseas was to get away from her life and career, she ended up running right back into them. Thank goodness she did. Another Country, the resulting album, is nothing short of stunning in its candor, simplicity, and grace. Following up on an album like Tambourine would be daunting for an artist of any caliber, but Merritt does so with poise befitting of Audrey Hepburn.

If you’re expecting an album anything like Tambourine, you will be disappointed. Get that album, as spectacular as it is, out of your head before seriously listening to Another Country. Unlike its predecessor, this album does not strut its stuff by leaping from genre to genre. Nor does it go out of its way to impress. Ironically, that is what makes this album such a refreshing and honest listen. This isn’t the sound of a great talent trying to sound well-versed. It’s the sound of an artist working through her life through her art, clinging to what she knows best to survive emotional upheaval.

At first, the contrast is startling, if not slightly disappointing. Where’s the soul songstress who sounded like a long-lost artist of the Stax era? Where’s the classic-rock spark plug who charged through a song with aplomb and bravado? She’s not here, folks, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will appreciate the sound of this album. Only a couple of tracks, such as “My Heart Is Free”, approach the main-stage sound of their predecessors. If Tambourine was Merritt’s attempt at the big time, this is her confessional album—and it’s a damn nice one at that. From the first song, “Something to Me”, you’ll notice that these songs are quieter, softer, and, for the most part, slower. Whereas the production was big, sometimes bombastic, on Tambourine, everything here is pushed behind Merritt’s voice, and it may take you quite a few listens to notice that there’s an organ or lead guitar on a track. That’s a big part of this album’s allure. It takes time to discover its many rewards.

Lyrically, the album is immeasurably more intimate than Merritt’s previous work. She has always drawn from her life when writing songs, but here the words are more focused, honest, and direct. Because of this tightened scope, the lyrics take on a poetic quality, transforming everyday images into symbols of profound, and sometimes painful, truths. The title cut is a perfect example. Using the idea of being in another country as an extended metaphor for the search for love, Merritt captures how hard it often is to bridge the distance between longing and loving. In the song, the narrator is so far removed from love that she can only imagine it as a foreign place: “And you can just hold onto me / Strangers in another country.”

As a whole, the album possesses a hopeful, albeit weary, tone. Sprinkled throughout are hints that the experiences that left Merritt disillusioned and disappointed eventually led to the realization that happiness is to be found from within, not from without. In “Broken”, the narrator discovers her own resolve, noting, “I’m broken and I don’t understand / What is broken falls into place once again.” The overall statement of the album is found in “I Know What I’m Looking for Now”. “All of these miles I’ve come,” the narrator muses, “All of these dreams I’ve chased in my mind / All for something so small and simple to find.” Merritt was clearly searching for meaning and connection while writing this album, and like most great works of art, these songs don’t provide answers so much as inspire contemplation.

Merritt may have wanted to leave music behind because of all the pressures that come with being a musician who’s both immensely talented and devoted to craft, but Another Country is a testament to what she can do with those pressures pushed aside. True, this album is much less likely to make her a household name than Tambourine, but who gives a damn? Certainly not Merritt. Not anymore. And neither will you once you live with this album for a while. You’ll be too busy enjoying the process of unveiling its subtle, beautiful rewards.


01. Something To Me
02. Broken
03. Another Country
04. Hopes Too High
05. Morning Is My Destination
06. Keep You Happy
07. I Know What I’m Looking For Now
08. Tell Me Something True
09. My Heart is Free
10. Tender Branch
11. Mille Tendresses be Tift:



Thanks to the original poster

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April 2, 2008 Posted by | Music_AltCountry, Tift Merritt, _MUSIC | Leave a comment