Archive for the Tift Merritt Category

Best of 2010: 12-10

Posted in Drunk on Crutches, Patty Griffin, Tift Merritt, Top 21 of 2010 on December 25, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

We’re kicking into overdrive now. The Top 10 begins in this post.

#12 – Downtown Church by Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of my all time favorites.  From her acoustic only debut album Living With Ghosts to her her much heavier produced follow up Flaming Red to the more polished and mature releases of her tenure with ATO Records, Griffin has hit a home run with me on nearly every one of her albums.  Griffin’s music was one of the first topics I ever discussed with my wife, and her music has always been present at each important stage in our time together.  She has the voice of an angel, and certain moments of her live shows fall just short of being religious experiences.  Recording a gospel album was a fully logical step.

This isn’t just any gospel album, though.  It has that rare combination of musical and spiritual resonance that you won’t find in your average praise band.  Producer and Americana All-Star Buddy Miller teams with Griffin to create beautifully textured songs that grab both the ear and the soul.  Friends like Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale, Julie Miller, Mike Farris, and Regina & Ann McCrary joined Griffin for the recording sessions at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church. I like to imagine the recording sessions as little church services led by Griffin as she recorded her vocals from the pulpit.  The word you’re looking for is “Hallelujah.”

Patty Griffin: If I Had My Way (Buy Album)

#11 – See You on the Moon by Tift Merritt

As an artist, Tift Merritt has always been about evolution.  Merritt’s sound has morphed over the years from the classic country of her early duets with The Two Dollar Pistols to the Memphis soul of Tambourine to the layered and varied sounds of See You on the Moon.  She is one of those artists that I’ve followed from the very beginning, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow over the years.  She has evolved into a very formidable artist and someone who never seems to disappoint with her music.

For her new record, Merritt took another step forward and exposed another facet of her sound.  The sweeping strings and subtle hand-clap percussion of “Mixtape” give that track an R&B vibe while the deeply layered and textured “Feel of the World” (with Jim James of My Morning Jacket) is among the most ambitious tracks in Merritt’s catalogue.  You can credit producer Tucker Martine for providing Merritt with some of the direction needed to pull off this next step in her evolution, but you also need to credit Merritt herself for being willing to take that step in the first place.

Tift Merritt: Feel of the World (Buy Album)

#10 – People. Places. Things. by Drunk on Crutches

Los Angeles’ Drunk on Crutches was easily my favorite surprise of 2010.  It all started when I saw People. Places. Things. posted on ReviewShine, and I couldn’t help but wonder what a band named Drunk on Crutches would sound like.  I fell in love with the album on first listen, posted a brief review on the site, and started playing a couple of tracks on WDVX.  Well it turns out that lead singer Jennifer Whittenburg’s mother listens to WDVX and heard me playing her daughter’s music.  She posted a few times on the WDVX facebook page, I contacted her back, and before long the band from L.A. was in Knoxville doing a live spot on the Blue Plate Special.

Drunk on Crutches play a guitar fueled brand of roots rock that is immediately memorable and full of hooks.  Whittenburg’s voice is both breathy and powerful, making her vocals just as effective in the quiet moments (“Oh Well”) as it is in the loud ones (“Tupelo,” “Using Me Up,” “Drink Up Buttercup”).  For those of you like me who came to Americana from the Rock & Roll side of the fence, this is one you need to hear.  Turn it up to eleven, sit back, and enjoy.

Drunk on Crutches: Tupelo (Buy Album)

Happy Holidays everybody!

Best of 2010/$5 Albums on Amazon

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Arcade Fire, She and Him, Spoon, Tift Merritt on October 12, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I don’t know if you’ve noticed the Amazon search box in the sidebar on the site or not. If you have, then you know this already. If not… I have recently joined the Amazon Associates program.

What that means is that if you purchase any of the music I write about on this site through the Amazon links I provide, I get back a (very) small percentage of the sale back from Amazon.  Not only will you be helping the artists featured on the site, you’ll be helping the site as well.  This site is ad free, and I have never made one cent from it in the two-plus years I’ve been running it.  The problem with that is that I put a lot of time into things here and I have to pay a hosting fee every month for the mp3 files.  It adds up.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to all of the sudden start adding link after link or change anything on the site.  The Amazon search box in the sidebar will be the only real change.  Please feel free to use it for your Amazon shopping if you like.

I did notice today, however, that several of the albums I’m considering for my Best of 2010 list are currently available as $5.00 digital downloads from Amazon during the month of October.

If you’d like to get a leg up on the 2010 list and help out the site as well, please take a moment to download a couple of these albums.


You can find the full list of $5.00 albums here.

Free Music Monday: Tift, Heathens, Ritter, Darlins…

Posted in Band of Heathens, Bill Monroe, Josh Ritter, Those Darlins, Tift Merritt on September 13, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The sign Those Darlins are standing in front of says “SALE,” but today I’m here to offer you free music. Lately, my inbox has been full of announcements from big-time Americana artists telling of free downloads they are offering on their websites. Simply follow the links ahead and download (completely free) live tracks and new tunes from Those Darlins, The Band of Heathens, Tift Merritt, and Josh Ritter.

Those Darlins have been working on the follow up to their self-titled debut album and will soon release a 7″ vinyl single as a preview of the new project. You can listen to two songs from the 7″ and download the new song “Night Jogger” at their website.
As I learned recently from our friends The Gobbler’s Knob, The Band of Heathens have offered another free download on their site. This time, it’s their version of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ classic “Sin City.”
Tift Merritt’s record label is offering four songs for free download on their site. Go here for live versions of “Mixtape” and “Engine to Turn” from her new album and studio versions of “Broken” and “Feel of the World.”
Finally, Josh Ritter and his wife Dawn Landes are sharing their version of a Heady West tune called “500 Miles” (not The Proclaimers’ song) to commemorate the beginning of their European tour. Get it here.

To end the post on a completely unrelated note… Today is the birthday of the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. Monroe was born Sept. 13, 1911 in the small Western Kentucky town of Rosine.

Today, Monroe is known for giving birth to a style of music that is distinctly American and Appalachian. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, and a National Medal of Arts recipient. He served as an undeniable influence on any number of musicians who came after him, and helped launch the careers of other bluegrass luminaries such as Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Don Reno, Vassar Clements, Jimmy Martin, Del McCoury, and many others who served apprenticeships under him as members of his Bluegrass Boys.
Bill Monroe passed away in 1996, but his music and his influence continue to live on.
Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys: Blue Moon of Kentucky (Buy Album)

Friday Notes: Chely Wright, Tift Merritt, & More

Posted in Chely Wright, Jompson Brothers Band, The Steeldrivers, Tift Merritt on June 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s been a while since I’ve thrown out a notes column. So… Here we go.

*** First. Don’t forget to register for the Mary Gauthier giveaway contest. I’ve had a nice response so far, but would still like to see more people register. Leave a comment here, send me an email, or comment on the blog’s facebook page to enter.

*** I never really listened much (or at all) to Chely Wright when she was topping the Country Music charts a decade ago with songs like “Single White Female.” I’ll have to admit, though, that all the publicity surrounding Wright’s recent personal announcement and release of her new album Lifted Off the Ground intrigued me. She had a personal story to tell and got Rodney Crowell involved to help her tell it. I’m also always happy to see someone leave behind the pre-fab world of Music Row to make an organic and honest record. And honesty is the key word here. By being honest with herself and her fans about who she really is, Wright is able to be honest with her music as well.

You can go here to read the full review of Chely Wright’s Lifted Off the Ground that I wrote for Country Standard Time.
Chely Wright: Broken (Buy Album)
*** Back in April, I told you officially what I had already known for a while… Chris Stapleton is no longer with The Steeldrivers. While this is devastating news to most, there are a couple of silver linings to the cloud. The first is that The Steeldrivers are continuing as a band with Gary Nichols handling the vocals. Even better news is that, before leaving the band, Stapleton went into the studio with the original group to record their sophomore album.
But, that’s all old news. The new news is that that The Steeldrivers’ sophomore album, Reckless, will be released in September from Rounder Records. I’ll be waiting very impatiently for that album to arrive. While you’re waiting for Reckless to arrive, you can listen to Stapleton wail with his rocking new project, The Jompson Brothers.

*** Finally… You’ll want to be sure to tune in to the Feature at Five this coming Wednesday on WDVX. I’ll be hosting the Feature that day, and I’ll be joined in the studio by none other than Tift Merritt for an interview and performance. Merritt is in Knoxville Wednesday for a concert at The Square Room as part of her tour to support her new album See You on the Moon (listen to my review here).

You can listen to the interview live Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 (Eastern) by following the Listen Live link on the WDVX website. Later that night, Merritt will perform with opening act Thad Cockrell at The Square Room. Cockrell will also perform live on WDVX earlier in the day. He’ll appear on The Blue Plate Special at noon. You can hear that performance live as well.
And just so you know that I listened to those of you who voted in the poll for me to include mp3’s with my audio reviews… this is “Mixtape” from See You on the Moon. Sorry to leave you all hanging last time. Speaking as the kid who used to record songs straight to tape off the radio and still makes an annual “Best of The Year” mix CD each December… I can really relate to this one.
Tift Merritt: Mixtape (Buy Album)

Tift Merritt: See You on the Moon Audio Review

Posted in Tift Merritt on June 8, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Some artists keep surprising you. Tift Merritt is one of them.

Her new album, See You on the Moon, was released last Tuesday, and has a few surprises in store. I apologize for being a week behind with this review, but I’ve had the album for a few months now… I just let the actual release date get past me. Once I missed the date, I figured I’d take the time to really get into the review and do it right.
Here’s my audio review of the new CD.
Tift Merritt: See You on the Moon Audio Review (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Happy Birthday Tift Merritt

Posted in Tift Merritt on January 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Lost in all of the hub-bub over Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday yesterday was the fact that Friday was also the birthday of Tift Merritt. Here’s a video of Tift performing at the Mercy Lounge as part of the 2007 Americana Music Conference. I attended this show with my wife. It wasn’t until the end of the night that we realized we were sitting next to Lee Ann Womack for a good part of the show.

Bonus Tift Merritt News: Tift’s upcoming album has a title and a tentative release date.

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: #2 – Tambourine by Tift Merritt

Posted in Tift Merritt, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on December 2, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

We’re almost to the end of the list… can you feel the excitement in the air?

The album at number two is Tift Merritt’s 2004 release Tambourine. This album was released at the end of August in 2004, and I still have vivid memories of this album serving as a large part of my personal soundtrack later that year at the Americana Music Association Conference in Nashville in September. I drove into Nashville listening to this album, saw Tift give an amazing performance at The Mercy Lounge that weekend, and left town knowing that Tambourine would be a steady part of my listening rotation for some time to come.
I had enjoyed Tift’s debut album Bramble Rose when it was released in 2002, but this one took me completely by surprise. For this album, Tift paired with producer George Drakoulias (Hollywood Town Hall) to craft a sound that is full of breezy country-rock riffs while also carrying a heavy dose of Dusty Springfield inspired Memphis Soul. The effect is stunning and led to Tambourine garnering a Grammy Nomination for “Best Country Album” and three nominations (Album, Song, Artist) at the Americana Music Awards & Honors.
The first sound you hear on the album is Tift’s voice as she sings the opening line of “Stray Paper.” Her vocals on this track are breathy at first, but build in intensity as her band builds an impressive country rock track around her. The intensity builds again as Tift rips through the album’s second track, the guitar and organ fueled “Wait it Out.” This is the song that most succinctly offers Tift’s mission statement for this record when she boldly announces that she, “just got to burning, and I won’t stop now.”
From there, Tift brings out the soul influences for the slow burning and horn drenched “Good Hearted Man.” She continues to explore her R&B and soul side by blasting through James Carr’s “Your Love Made a U-Turn,” and the concert staple singalongs “Shadow In the Way” and “I Am Your Tambourine.” Robert Randolph lends his Sacred Steel guitar to the latter song to take the album to lofty new heights. “Late Night Pilgrim” also pushes the pace of the album as a high energy rocker with a booming chorus that keeps Memphis in the back of your mind.
Even with all the energy and attitude present here, Tift manages to keep things grounded by also mixing in a few slower numbers like “Laid a Highway.” This down tempo tune tells of a small town that finds itself getting smaller as a major highway is built through a neighboring town. It’s easily the most traditional country tune on the album and stands in fine contrast to the bluesy “Still Pretending.” “Still Pretending” is tailor made for a slow dance. In fact, the last time my wife and I saw Tift in concert, she called for the audience to dance along as she played that song. We did… right in front of the stage.
And that brings me to the other reason this album is so special to me and so high on this list. That weekend in 2004 when I fully discovered this album was also the weekend when I met my wife for the first time. Over time, I introduced her to Tift’s music through my radio show (she used to listen to me online when we lived in different states), and eventually gave her a copy of the album. It was probably one of the first albums (outside of Patty Griffin & Scott Miller) that we truly bonded over, and we travelled from Nashville, TN to Charleston, WV to watch Tift perform in the early days of our relationship. When we got married, my wife insisted on using “Good Hearted Man*” as the song to play behind the pictures of me that were displayed during the photo montage that we showed at our rehearsal dinner and reception.
I loved the album before any of that happened… but the fact that a lot of that happened in large part due to this album makes me love it even more.
Tift Merritt: Good Hearted Man (Buy Album)
Tift Merritt: I Am Your Tambourine (Buy Album)

As a special bonus… here’s a YouTube vid of Tift Merritt singing “Stray Paper” on Austin City Limits.

*I don’t necessarily agree with her assessment of me, but I am deeply flattered that she feels that way.