Tift Merritt – Live From Austin TX (2007)

tiIt’s a fine performance as Merritt mixes selections from both albums (six from Tambourine; four from her debut) backed by her terrific four-piece band, tightened through constant touring. Her voice is clear and strong, the sound is full and clean. It’s an appropriately classy show for classy roots music that encompasses country, folk, and even gospel, especially in the religious fervor of choruses from “Shadow in the Way” and “Tambourine,” the latter with Merritt shaking the titular percussion instrument like she’s leading a Baptist service. The only sticking point is that Merritt’s stage movements, especially early on, are overly exaggerated. It looks like she is trying way too hard to work the stage and the audience, resulting in a forced and somewhat phony presence. Merritt’s songs and band are sturdy enough not to need these kinds of shenanigans to make an impression. Thankfully, when she slows down for the ballads “Still Pretending” and “Supposed to Make You Happy,” she keeps the hair-throwing to a minimum and concentrates on the performance. But that is a minor shortcoming with music this impressive played with passion and obvious joy, both from the frontwoman and her group.

mp3 160 kbps | 76 MB | UL

Tift Merritt – Travelinf Alone (2012)

Tift Merritt and what she terms a “dream cast” of musicians — including guitarist Marc Ribot, Calexico drummer John Convertino, steel guitarist Eric Heywood and multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger — spent just eight days recording Traveling Alone. But save for a definitively loose vibe and unadorned instrumentation, it’s not obvious that the singer-songwriter’s fifth studio album came together so quickly. Traveling Aloneis lovely and languid, preoccupied by restlessness of mind and body, and a deep desire to find a place to belong.Traveling Alone‘s music is subtle enough to let Merritt’s lyrics shine, especially on the acoustic-based title track and the Emmylou Harris-like “Feeling Of Beauty.” But the album’s arrangements also play to the strengths of its musicians: “Still Not Home” is rollicking alt-country with Heywood’s wrinkled pedal steel at the forefront, while Ribot’s contributions — especially the bluesy licks on the otherwise sparse “Spring” and the jagged country riffs driving “To Myself” — cut to the quick. Merritt herself even takes to the piano for the jaunty pop of “In The Way,” a song determined to find a bright future (“One day, I’ll never be lonely/ Oh yeah, it will really be something”). Such hints of optimism balance out Traveling Alone‘s most wrenching songs — and explain why the album never becomes bogged down by its search for self.

mp3 VBR~227 kbps | 72 MB | UL | TB