John Metzger's #24 album for 2008
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Tue February 26, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
The lives of musicians typically are depicted glamorously, and although there is something to be said about the freedom that the open road provides, there also is a darker side to maintaining a routine that, for long stretches of time, consists of lugging a suitcase and a guitar from town to town. What initially seems to be liberating can eventually become a trap, one that is filled with isolation and loneliness as the cities and highways become one big blur. Without realizing it, an artist’s life can spiral out of control, and the inspiration that once was drawn from a deep-seated connection to the world can evaporate within the tediousness of a routine that never seems to end.
Upon issuing her debut Bramble Rose in 2002, Tift Merritt almost immediately became the darling of the Americana-leaning, singer/songwriter circuit. For whatever reason, though, she shifted gears, at least in part, on her sophomore affair Tambourine. Highlighting the more soul-infused aspects of her work, she not only embraced the comparisons to Dusty Springfield that already had begun to be tossed her way, but she also rather effectively broadened her sound without alienating her devoted following. Her subsequent tour, however, took its toll on her psyche. Finding herself disconnected from nearly everyone and everything she had ever known, Merritt withdrew to Paris, and by becoming a stranger in a strange land, she somehow learned how to live again.
Merritt’s re-emergence with Another Country is, then, a loosely knit tale about the triumph of the human spirit, though it’s not necessarily easy to decipher this concept from the music alone. There’s no doubt that the outing bears the strongest batch of melodies that Merritt has ever penned. Yet, when it is taken simply at face value, the collection — which was produced by George Drakoulias, the man who was responsible for putting a radio-friendly sheen upon The Jayhawks’ Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass — drifts in one ear and out the other in a fashion that is so pleasantly comforting that it’s easy to miss the depth of emotion that Merritt relays through her work. Opening cut Something to Me, for example, is bent to resemble America’s Sister Golden Hair, and the remainder of the set — from the gentle, Joni Mitchell-esque sway of the title track to the horn-kissed R&B of Tell Me Something True — never wavers from insistently clinging to its glistening, ’70s era, folk-pop sheen.
Still, the more often that Another Country is heard in its entirety, the greater the chances become that its lyrics will begin to nag at the listener, thereby planting the idea in the back of one’s mind that something else is at stake within the outing’s construction. It helps considerably that, in her liner notes, Merritt so beautifully sketches the events that caused the album to burst forth from her soul. In reading her words, after one has a basic familiarity with her new material, the context she provides with her prose magnifies the overall resonance of the endeavor. As she sings of rainy days and nights as well as hearts that have been broken and mended, everything suddenly falls into place. Another Country not only is the sound of Tift Merritt wearily collapsing into the emptiness of her life only to discover the beauty and love that surround her, but it also is the story of her reawakening to engage the world once again. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Another Country is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box