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Music Review: Tift Merritt – Another Country

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After rousing critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for her 2004 album Tambourine, 30 year old alt-country singer/songwriter old Tift Merritt had achieved goals other young musicians could only imagine.

Then, unexpectedly, her record label, Lost Highway, dropped her, and she found herself weary from constant touring and unsure what to do next. Instead of barricading herself n Nashville or Los Angeles, Merritt retreated to Paris to reflect and work on new music.
The City of Lights seems to be the most unlikely place to stir up creativity in an artist hailed as one of the stars of the Americana music scene, but it inspired Another Country, Merritt’s most personal CD to date.

Some artists’ (think of Alanis Morrisette) raison d'être is to write about their daily anguish and highlight every impetuous thought. Too much of a contemplative thing can be self-indulgent or just plain bad, but just enough can make a beautiful and soothing piece of music. Tift Merritt's Another Country is such an album.

While in Paris, Merritt befriended an older woman named Cecile, a former jazz singer and a salon owner named Christian. Her friendship with these people and the infusion of a new atmosphere set the framework for the 11 tunes on Another Country. The CD, produced by George Drakoulis (Black Crowes, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) with guest appearances by guitarists Charlie Sexton and Doug Pettibone, flows together seamlessly.

While Tambourine and  2002’s Bramble Rose mined many musical styles and contained heavier, rock-oriented songs,  Another Country remains focused on a folk/pop acoustic ballads in the style of Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell with a bit of Dusty Springfield thrown in to spice things up. It’s a stretch to call these songs “alt-country”, most of them would fit nicely in an adult contemporary playlist. Merritt explores an artist’s intimate personal struggles via universal themes of love, loss, and self-discovery that listeners can relate to their own lives.

“Something to Me” has a hummable melody and a sprinkling of percussion. Merrit’s delicate and uplifting voice makes lyrics like “Cause these well-worn threads of daylight will sometimes come apart, / Giving way to all the shadows where no one can hear your heart," a call to action instead of a pity party.  The first single “Broken” echoes the theme of  a strong will overcoming adversity. “I think I will break but I mend” Merritt sings. “Broken” segues quietly into the next track “Another Country” a tender ode to a lover. Sassy horns bring the uptempo “Tell Me Something True” to life, and the CD ends with “Mille Tendresses”, a haunting ballad sung in French. Another Country explores a  melancholy premise and proves that, yes, there is a rainbow at the end of the storm.

Merrit’s touring the UK and the Midwest this summer in support of Another Country capping things off in July with a show at the Grand Ole Opry.

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