Lost Highway CD 088 170 273-2, 2002 (52:42)
Linda Dailey Paulson
Although some folks know her for her years fronting the Carbines, Tift Merritt first came to my attention through an EP, Two Dollar Pistols with Tift Merritt, released by Yep Roc in 1999. She and Pistols' front man John Howie sang seven country classic duets, including "Just Someone I Used to Know." It was a sweet project which left this listener wanting more.
Bramble Rose is that more.
Clear and sweet, her voice is center stage throughout the 11-song album. There's a good mix between uptempo country songs and plaintive ballads. There are a few tracks that call to mind Sheryl Crow, especially "Neighborhood" with its languid delivery and lyrical storytelling. When combined with jangly rock guitar it does have that pop-rock feel. But let's skip the comparisons and move forward. Among the strongest tracks on Bramble Rose are "Virginia, No One Can Warn You," "Are You Still in Love With Me?" a tears-in-my-beer waltz, and the title track. The material is emotive and Merritt's songwriting shows promise. The arrangements and production - thanks to Ethan Johns, who has worked with such folk as Ryan Adams and Counting Crows - are solid.
What is a wee tad irritating is the disappearance of the Carbines. The band on the CD is indeed the Carbines with Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) sitting in on keyboards. Tift is still singing lead. It must burn those guys to be disappeared by the label.
A nice debut.
performers Tift Merritt, vocals, piano, guitar; Ethan Johns, guitar, mandolin, percussion, piano, drums, organ, ukulele; Jay Brown, bass, harmony; Benmont Tench, keyboards; Julianna Raye, vocals; C.C. White, vocals
production Produced, engineered, and mixed by Ethan Johns, mastered by Doug Sax
songs Trouble Over Me · Virginia, No One Can Warn You · Neighborhood · Bird of Freedom · Bramble Rose · I Know Him Too · Sunday · Supposed to Make You Happy · Diamond Shoes · Are You Still in Love With Me? · When I Cross Over