Album: Tambourine

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Album:

Tambourine

Artist: Tift Merritt
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Label: Lost Highway

Merritt’s resonant if somewhat conventionally alt-country debut Bramble Rose did little to predict this blue-eyed-soul breakout. A mix of hard-charging guitar rockers, horn-charted grooves, and pensive singer-songwriter ballads, Tambourine might have resulted in a stylistic hodge-podge, but producer George Drakoulias lends the same punchy, live-tracked vitality that distinguished the best work of the Jayhawks, Black Crowes, and Maria McKee. Merritt taps deep into her southern musical roots to find her own voice, and that voice has fully…

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Merritt’s resonant if somewhat conventionally alt-country debut Bramble Rose did little to predict this blue-eyed-soul breakout. A mix of hard-charging guitar rockers, horn-charted grooves, and pensive singer-songwriter ballads, Tambourine might have resulted in a stylistic hodge-podge, but producer George Drakoulias lends the same punchy, live-tracked vitality that distinguished the best work of the Jayhawks, Black Crowes, and Maria McKee. Merritt taps deep into her southern musical roots to find her own voice, and that voice has fully blossomed—her enunciation is clearer, her phrasing sensual without straining. Her best songs balance the urgent economy of classic soul singles with a personal, if not precisely confessional, intensity. Like Van Morrison and Dusty Springfield, Merritt follows her country, soul, and rock & roll instincts to find a single ecstatic sound, one that culminates in the full-out gospel testimony of “Shadow in the Way.” Tambourine may not quite live up to the Dusty in Memphis comparisons, but it may very well wind up the album of Tift Merritt’s career. —Roy Kasten

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