Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
I Know What I’m Looking For Now
Photo by Mark Borthwick
You can’t say that what Tift Merritt was doing wasn’t working – her 2002 debut Bramble Rose was received with great critical acclaim and the follow-up, 2005’s Tambourine, was equally well-received and garnered her a Grammy nomination. And yet, following the exhaustive touring cycle for that record, she felt spent and decamped to Paris to recuperate and rediscover herself. The net outcome of which is Another Country.
While both of her first two efforts were fine examples of the genres into which they were inevitably filed – alt.country with the debut, southern rock & soul on the follow-up – there was something about each that didn’t ring entirely true to me. I don’t mean that they weren’t genuine efforts or that she wasn’t convincing in those roles, but more that neither of those particular styles – at least not delivered as straight as they were – seemed quite the right fit for Merritt. And while it’d be far too much of an overstatement to say that Another Country showcases the real Tift Merritt, there’s something very direct and guileless in the new record that wasn’t necessarily there in the first two records.
The country and soul of her earlier works still informs much of what she does, but you’d be hard pressed to pigeonhole Another Country as either of those with a clean conscience. With the exception of a couple more uptempo numbers, the overall tenor is quiet, contemplative and searching and in this context, Merritt’s voice – always a thing of beauty – sounds better than it ever has. When I originally mentioned anticipating this record back in January, I said I’d have been perfectly happy with another record in the vein of her first two. Happily, Merritt delivered something else entirely and in the process, taught me to not presume to know what to expect from an artist.
JAM! salutes Basia Bulat, champion of the autoharp. She’s at Lee’s Palace on Saturday night. And check out bandmate Holly’s Gas Station Gourmet blog, wherein she keeps a diary of the dubious diet of life on the road.
In advance of their show at the El Mocambo that night, The Dodos are doing an in-store at Soundscapes on April 9 at 5PM. These guys really impressed at SxSW – catch one or both of these shows if you can.
I missed their last show in town because I had a date with Neil Young, so I’m glad to see The Blakes are coming back to town for a show at the Horseshoe on April 25. You may recall that I dug their self-titled debut and I hear they put on a pretty scorching show at the Silver Dollar in November, so I’m glad to get a chance to see it for myself.
And you may have noticed that I closed my Beautiful Noise contest a couple days early… short version, it was an invite-only affair and Torontoist decided that meant “invite everybody” and posted the RSVP emails for all to see. These are not guaranteed admissions, but it did mean that the guest lists for the shows were filling up much faster than anticipated, and I had to get my names together ASAP. There is good news and bad news with this – the good news is that I was given more spots to give away than originally planned so many more of you got emails from me last night confirming your attendance and asking for stuff like your names. If you entered, check your emails and your junk mail and your bulk mail for something from me. And if you’ve looked and looked and looked, then sorry, I just couldn’t accommodate everyone. The bad news is that if you were procrastinating for whatever reason… you’re SOL. But on the bright side, you’re free to use the RSVP emails at Torontoist to take a shot at whatever lottery system they’re using to handle those requests. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.