First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2002, Volume 9, #7
Written by John Metzger
It hardly seems fair that one label could very well wind up with all of the top-tier talent in country music. But that seems to be what’s happening at Lost Highway. Of course, this isn’t too big a surprise, given that its focus seems to be on artists who not only excel at merging delectable melodies with well-crafted lyrics, but who also can perform their songs with passion and conviction. Such full-service delivery is rare these days, and rarer still is an entire roster that can succeed on all counts. Yet, that is exactly what Lost Highway has built with its unparalleled line-up of alternative and outlaw country sounds.
After establishing a presence with a superb set of releases that has included outings from veteran artists Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen as well as an all-star tribute to Hank Williams, the label is now turning its attention to developing new talent. And what a find they’ve got with Tift Merritt, a Texas-born, North Carolina-raised songwriter with a voice that’s pure gold. Her debut Bramble Rose consistently blurs the line between country and rock, touching upon a who’s who of music from Sheryl Crow (Neighborhood) to Laura Nyro (Bird of Freedom) to Patsy Cline (Are You Still in Love with Me) with shades of the Rolling Stones peppering several of the tracks. Further, the way she pulls each influence together inevitably evokes comparisons to labelmates Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams.
But everything comes back to that voice — a sweetly soaring thing of beauty that magnificently slips from gentle vulnerability to powerful defiance in the blink of an eye. Producer Ethan Johns recognized this and wisely kept her vocals at the forefront of each track. Masterfully, he painted the instrumental support around Merritt, sharpening the haunted emotions of her songs by lovingly filling in the spaces with just the right touches of piano, pedal steel, and percussion. All this makes for an astonishing debut, and although artists come and artists go, Tift Merritt is certainly here to stay.
Of Further Interest...
Bramble Rose is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box