Another Countryby Tift Merritt
Weary from the road after two acclaimed albums, Tift Merritt retreated to Paris, to a rented apartment with a view and a piano. There, in the City of Light, she was renewed. Hence Another Country, a departure so pronounced from her justly heralded Tambourine and Bramble Rose albums that it might even be termed "radical." Emanating from new ground musically and philosophically, Another Country comes to grips with the romantic and spiritual doubts pervading the artist's previous installments, an evolution limned by music that's less defined by its old-school drive than by its quiet, folkish introspection. The Parisian sabbatical inspired in Merritt a more generous outlook on the nature of love -- as she states most forcefully in the deliberate, gently rolling rock rhythms of "I Know What I'm Looking For Now," when she asserts, "What little I know is quick as a wink but I've known a real long time." In her close-to-the-bone revelations, Merritt has crafted something here as deeply introspective as the early Judy Collins masterpiece In My Life -- a notion she underscores with her airy, spacious vocals, so unabashedly frank in their vulnerability, especially in the melancholy, cabaret-style closer, "Mille Tendresses" ("A Thousand Tendernesses"), in which her longing is as open and aching as Piaf's. She hasn't left the high-octane drive behind, though: both "Tell Me Something True" and "My Heart Is Free" lash out with stomping southern soul and shimmering rock 'n' roll thrust. The B&N exclusive disc adds three bonus tracks, including Merritt's version of the Velvet Underground's "Who Loves the Sun," that complete a portrait of a young artist now fully formed, and fully cognizant of the dangers that lie ahead in the stirrings of those thousand tendernesses.
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Performance CreditsTift Merritt Primary Artist
Charlie Sexton Guitar
George Drakoulias Acoustic Guitar,Percussion
Patrick Warren chamberlain
Jay Brown Bass,Harmony
Doug Pettibone Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar
Josh Schwartz Rhythm Guitar
Zeke Hutchins Drums
Dan Eisenberg Keyboards
Technical CreditsDavid Bianco Engineer
George Drakoulias Producer
Tommy Steele Art Direction
Tift Merritt Composer,Introduction
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If Tift Merritt's critically acclaimed debut album dipped deep into the well of Americana and her Grammy-nominated follow-up showed off her talents in the blue-eyed soul department, her third album demonstrates her ability to bathe her songs in the glow of 1970s California rock. I use the word "if" because it would be unfair to stick just one label on any of Tift Merritt's albums. There's too much going on to pigeonhole her efforts in a particular subgenre. Listeners who consider her a country artist are unlikely to change their minds after listening to the first half of the album, with tracks such as "Something To Me," "Broken," and "Hopes Too High" cooking in a laid-back, Southern-fried vibe. But songs such as the title track, "Tell Me Something True," and "My Heart Is Free" find Merritt and her bandmates exploring the singer-songwriter ballad, the Stax/Volt groove thing, and the rockin' protest song. Perhaps the circumstances behind this album's creation "you'll find details in the liner notes and in most official reviews" lend its songs a wistful character that's less pronounced in her previous work, but Merritt's voice soars, soothes, and satisfies as always. This reviewer had heard most of the tunes before listening to the album, yet he still found pleasant surprises in the arrangements, the fine instrumental support, and the sequence of strong songs. Listeners who purchase this special B&N edition will get the bonus of three additional tunes: an outtake that will have fans asking why a 12th tune didn't make the final cut, a Lou Reed cover, and an acoustic version of lead single "Broken." If Tift Merritt really knows what she's looking for now "as she tells us in one new song", let's hope she finds it and shares it with us for years to come.
This album is as mellow and perfect as watching the sun set on the open plain. This is country music that really matters. Forget all the Shania's and Faiths, cause Tift is the real deal. From the pop sensibilty of "Broken"(one of the catchiest singles of the year), to the tender longing of the title track "Another Country", to the parisian flavor of "Mille Tendresses" she shows her range of styles and....wow!! that voice - Pure country and heavenly.
"Another Country" is Tift Merritt's most consistently melodic album to date. The songs grow on you after repetitive playing. "Broken" is getting a lot of radio airplay, and it seems to get better on each hearing. "Mille Tendresses," the final song on the album, being in French, really highlights the beauty of Tift's voice.
Another Country is Americana crossover artist Tift Merritt’s third album and it’s a step ahead from her first and second albums, although that may not be obvious on first listen. Her debut, Bramble Rose, was mostly country-ish sounding while the follow up, Tambourine, had more of a Muscle Shoals classic soul flavor with some heartland rock and 50s pop balladry also. On the first she seemed a very fresh, talented yet fragile artist and the second revealed her extroverted confident side with its strutting boldness. Another Country contains a little of both of these sides of Tift’s personality, as well as some of all the musical styles she has dabbled in, but there is more of a singular uniformity to the musical sound and a maturity in the lyrics. The album opens with a couple of mid-tempo country rock strummers and then moves to a soulful ballad rising to a restrained crescendo and on to a contemporary country song and then a Van Morrison-inspired soul ballad and a straight-up R&B track with horns. None stray too far from musical territory she has worked in before, but the styles are slightly muted and subdued, as if she is becoming more comfortable with blending elements of these styles into her own sound. There is nothing original in inhabiting the musical meeting ground of country, soul, folk and rock, but Merritt does it with such heartfelt conviction, charm and ever increasing skill as a lyricist and songwriter that she stands tall among her peers in the Americana genre. New styles for Tift on Another Country include the French chanteuse crooning on Mille Tendresses (sung in French, inspired by her extended sabbatical in Paris, during which most of these songs were composed) and the easy listening pop of Keep You Happy complete with (synthesized) strings. Lyrically Another Country deals with themes that include travel for self-discovery, the importance of the small details in life, the nature of balancing giving to others while not letting oneself become depleted, the dynamics of (physical and emotional) distance and closeness in relationships, and maintaining one’s determination and desire to pursue a career and life path in the face of disappointment. Confidently skillful, restrained and tasteful backing is provided by her long time rhythm section of Jay Brown and Zeke Hutchins, Hammond organ/keyboard man Dan Eisenberg as well as ace session guitar tonemeisters Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan) and Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams). Production is again handled by roots rock legend George Drakoulias (Tom Petty, The Jayhawks). Tift Merritt has a rare combination of a stunningly beautiful, soulful and powerful singing voice, great skill as a songwriter, a charismatic, energetic stage presence as well as a tremendous aesthetic for time-tested American musical forms. She is a true talent and an artist to be treasured. Another Country, as both a continuation and progression of her art, bodes well for the longevity of her career. It’s a great record to become introduced to her music and it will surely please her existing fans.