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4.2 8
by Tift Merritt
Classic soul/R&B and roadhouse rock meet most engagingly on Tift Merritt's impressive sophomore effort. If her 2002 debut, Bramble Rose, positioned Merritt as a more open-hearted, optimistic Lucinda Williams acolyte, then Tambourine reveals her to be a blue-eyed soul diva in waiting. There's


Classic soul/R&B and roadhouse rock meet most engagingly on Tift Merritt's impressive sophomore effort. If her 2002 debut, Bramble Rose, positioned Merritt as a more open-hearted, optimistic Lucinda Williams acolyte, then Tambourine reveals her to be a blue-eyed soul diva in waiting. There's plenty of hard-charging rock 'n' soul here -- the relentless "Late Night Pilgrim," the soaring "Wait It Out," the furious rhythmic assault propelling "I Am Your Tambourine" -- but what rivets the attention are Merritt's forays into classic soul/R&B, complete with gospel choruses, robust horns, gospely organ, and vocals that position Tift as Dusty ascendant, and convincingly so. The blue-eyed-soul ballad "Good Hearted Man" comes straight outta Muscle Shoals, with Merritt's sultry vocal buttressed by a gospel chorus and a punchy horn section. "Still Pretending" uses a slinky R&B groove, pizzicato strings, and twangy guitar to underscore a woman's downcast lament over post-breakup wreckage. On the fanciful side, the Memphis-redolent "Your Love Made a U-Turn" employs a funky groove supported by blaring horns, whimsical organ fills, and a righteous female chorus serving Merritt's insinuating lament over a feckless lover's untoward behavior. Ah, but listen up. Amidst this groove-rich exercise comes "Laid a Highway," a folkish ballad about a once-bustling small town now on life support after a superhighway goes in, very Springsteenish in its empathy for those disenfranchised by so-called progress. The album closes on a rousing note with the infectious "Shadow in the Way," its jubilant barrelhouse piano and full-throated gospel chorus recalling the early-'70s revival-style celebrations of Leon Russell and friends. Merritt, who wrote 11 of the dozen songs here, sounds right at home, equally convincing as a belter and a balladeer, and brimming with soul that comes naturally -- a rare bird, indeed.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Hal Horowitz
With oodles of critical praise but disappointing commercial response, Tift Merritt's terrific 2002 debut was a qualified success. On her follow-up two years later, she gradually but decidedly moves her ringing country rock toward a more classic soul sound. With producer George Drakoulias -- who mined similar territory with Maria McKee -- providing the musical muscle, the album is an impressive accomplishment. Merritt sure has the pipes for this stirring soul/Americana music. She sings with an aching acquiescence common to country artists such as Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, but belts out these tunes with the power of Linda Ronstadt in her prime. Drakoulias wisely places her tough yet tender vocals front and center in the mix, leaving her faceless but competent backup musicians to carry the bluesy twang she has perfected here. Dusty Springfield and McKee have both covered this ground, but on Memphis soul shots like "Good Hearted Man" and especially "Your Love Made a U Turn" with full, blaring horns and R&B backing vocals, the effect is explosive and revelatory. "Ain't Looking Closely" takes its ringing guitar straight from Roger McGuinn's Byrds days, but the meaty approach and chorus is strictly Southern. The blues that infuses "Still Pretending" adds a torchy Dwight Yoakam/George Jones approach with Merritt projecting hurt resignation on top of subtle strings and a classic country sound out of the '60s. "The Plainest Thing" strips down the backing to bare organ, brushed drums, and spare guitar, leaving plenty of room for Merritt's luxurious voice. But it's the more upbeat tracks that rule, as Merritt and Drakoulias' firm control and extraordinary sense of dynamics shoot this album into orbit. Tambourine is a remarkably mature, confident, and commanding release that defines then rides its groove with no low points. It should make Merritt the star she deserves to be.

Product Details

Release Date:
Lost Highway


  1. Stray Paper
  2. Wait It Out
  3. Good Hearted Man
  4. Ain't Looking Closely
  5. Still Pretending
  6. Write My Ticket
  7. You Love Made a U-Turn
  8. Plainest Thing
  9. Late Night Pilgrim
  10. I Am Your Tambourine
  11. Laid a Highway
  12. Shadow in the Way

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tift Merritt   Primary Artist
Maria McKee   Vocal Harmony
Mike Campbell   Guitar
Neal Casal   Guitar
George Drakoulias   Percussion
Don Heffington   Drums
Darrell Leonard   Horn
Maxayn Lewis   Vocals
Gary Louris   Vocal Harmony
Lance Morrison   Bass
Joe Sublett   Horn
Patrick Warren   Celeste,chamberlain
Maxine Willard Waters   Vocals
Texicali Horns   Track Performer
Julia Waters   Vocals
Jason Sinay   Guitar
Margaret Fowler   Vocals
Good Hearted Women Singers   Track Performer

Technical Credits

George Drakoulias   Producer
Jay Joyce   Composer
Jim Scott   Engineer
Ryan Hewitt   Engineer
Tift Merritt   Composer
Bethany Newman   Art Direction
Roberto Deste   Cover Photo

Customer Reviews

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Tambourine 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms.Tift Merritt delivers another album of high order with passionate, luminous, sympathethic and hypnotic songs. “Tambourine” is as good as her breathtakingly attractive debut record (Bramble Rose) but in a different way. This time she prefers singing a rocking Memphis soul combined with alternative country-folk (Thanks to Mr.Drakoulias for being at the helm). Any careful listener will discover that in addition to Ms.Emmylou Harris and Ms.Lucinda Williams, Ms.Dusty Springfield is also among the heroines of Ms.Merritt. If “Bramble Rose” has “Trouble Over Me”, “Virginia, No One Can Warn You”, “Diamond Shoes” and “When I Cross Over” with the prominent pedal steel guitar; “Tambourine” contains “Stray Paper”, “Wait It Out”, “Write My Ticket” and “Laid a Highway” with the vivid Hammond organ plus horns. Yes, instead of the Nashville sound, this time Ms.Merritt invites us to be mixed with the sound of Memphis. Let’s don’t forget to be all ears.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What´re you doing down there in US ? What have you done to your women ? So many of the best records these days is made by women. This record is so big in motion and so soulful and so on the road. I need these song to remember the emptyness on the plains and the sky, too big, above it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Simply amazing. What a voice. The only thing I can say is that she sounds even better live, so check her out sometime. "Good Hearted Man" is destined to be a classic. WOW!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to Tift Merritt. "Tambourine" has been nominated for a Grammy as the Best Country Album of 2004!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're looking for formula country or formula anything, Tift Merritt isn't the artist for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for an original artist who writes songs you can't get out of your head, and delivers them with a voice and phrasing that guarantees they'll hit home, Tift and her Tambourine are your salvation. And if you ever get to see Tift perform live, you'll think you've gone to heaven. I love EVERY cut on the CD so I expect that, like her earlier Bramble Rose, Tambourine will also stay in my player all the time. Now I see why CD's are better than records -- no grooves to wear out!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry, but I listened to this CD and thought it was boring. There's a couple of good songs, but most of the others sound alike. Don't waste your money!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Let 'er rip, Tift! This singer knows how to have a good time with her music, and she's a beautiful songwriter, too. Don't miss this one.