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 ba... more »llads, 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« less
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
Ani K. (goddessani) from POULSBO, WA Reviewed on 4/12/2007...
Haunting voice. Best known for Good Hearted Man.
Somewhere between Patty Griffin & Sheryl Crow
moose_of_many_waters | Palo Alto, CA United States | 09/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tift's first album was a roots-based, singer-songwriter effort made during the afterglow of "Brother Where Art Thou" when Music Row execs thought that Americana music would be embraced by the public. Unfortunately, the hoped for resurgence in roots music fizzled and many albums, including Bramble Rose, failed to sell.
Following in the footsteps of Wilco and Ryan Adams, Tift has moved out of Southern roots-based music with this album in the effort to sell some records. I can't blame any of them for doing this. There's no use making music unless you have an audience to hear it.
Tift Merritt is a fine songwriter with a sweet voice, and a lot of ambition. There's a lot of Memphis-based soul and a lot of 70s based rock and roll on this album, and an overheated production that sounds best when played very loud. At times, the songs on this album are honest, cut through the slickness, and remind me of Patty Griffin at her best. Other times, the songs are shallow, have decent hooks and remind me of Sheryl Crow.
Sometimes the production on this album overwhelms her voice. While a lot of money has been poured into this album, it's not clear to me how it's going to find a major audience. Just how many people are going to buy 70s-based music steeped in Al Green and the Allman Brothers? It's worth noting that one of the fine back up singers on this album, Maria McKee, tried doing this with an album of her own a few years back. It didn't sell.
Being a star requires talent, hard work, a sound right for the times, compromises to your art, and a whole lot of luck. I've been listening to Tift Merritt since she started playing dive clubs in Chapel Hill and Raleigh (she's a great live performer). I know she wants to be a star. I don't think this album has the sound to get her there, but I hope I'm wrong.
P.S. I picked up a vinyl version of this album and it sounds much better than the CD version, which is very brassy. Given that the feel of the album is very much late 60s / early 70s in tone, listening to it on vinyl gives the album a nice context."
Bold Steps for Tift
Kerry Moon | NC | 08/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tift Merritt's first album, Bramble Rose, was critically acclaimed but fell short of high expectations. This was due mostly to a lack of exposure on any major radio markets. The songs fell between the genre cracks - not quite country enough for country, too little rock and roll for rock. It was generally classified as "alt-country" or "roots." What it really was was Tift Merritt's heart and soul laid out in stunning melodies.
With Tambourine, Tift has completely reinvented herself. The album itself is slickly produced, with lots of instruments and lots of backup voices, compared to the simple, naive production of Bramble Rose.
By now you've probably heard the hype, comparisons to Dusty Springfield, Delaney and Bonnie, and Carole King. The comparisons are apt. This is clearly a sound from a more soulful generation.
Fortunately, the heart and soul behind the music is still Tift Merritt. She is a remarkable songstress. And her beautiful voice is captured with remarkable clarity in these recordings.
If you're a big fan of Tift's earlier music, you'll probably need to listen to Tambourine three or four times before you fully appreciate it. If Tift is a new find, you'll probably find yourself singing along with songs like "Good Hearted Man," or "Write My Ticket." You'll get a good chuckle out of "Your Love Made a U Turn." If you're like me, you'll get completely hooked on "Still Pretending." Old fan or new, once you put Tambourine into your CD player, you'll be loathe to take it out.
Given the remarkable variety of Tift's first two albums, one can only hope we don't have to wait another two years to see what she will come up with next."
A Fine Album, Tift's Amazing!
Greg Zimmerman | VA | 06/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"North Carolina-bred singer/songwriter Tift Merritt can easily be declared as this generations new version of Carole King or Dusty Springfield. Maybe that sounds a little to extreme for most folks, but with just one listen to Merritt's sweet voice, you can't help but begin to make some sort of comparisons.
Merritt broke through onto the country scene a couple of years ago with her, Bramble Rose, record. Although garnered by many critics as being an impressive debut record, many felt something was lacking in the production of the record. Don't be fooled though with Merritt's new release, Tambourine. It might just be one of this year's greatest surprises. I couldn't put it down once I began my first listen.
Tambourine, is as explosive musically as anything contemporary country music has given us this year. It's like a whirlwind of music from every possible avenue of an artistic discovery. Merritt does an extraordinary job with her mixture of music from everything reminiscent of her sweet southern blues to the pleasant soul voice that she plants into our hearts with every song. Merritt is a plain spoken songstress. She doesn't create anything to fancy and even allows her music to beam a ray of light into our consciousness. It's her own glory to unearth many new intention of how to make her music fun that makes this album such a joy to listen to. That is something to celebrate.
I know it sounds a little cliché by now, but there really isn't a single bad track on this record. Her musical appreciation is something that should not to be taken lightly. I give her a lot of credit finding the right music that fits her well. The beautifully written, Good Hearted Man, isn't just a funny way of maybe paying homage to the late Waylon Jennings, but a deep down and straight forward love song that captures the beauty to how well Merritt can connect with a lyric. Her Van Morrison influence is heavily shown on the track, Late Night Pilgrim. A song that could have well been passed on during Morrison's Moondance years of the early seventies. I also love the country/ rock of, I Am You Tambourine, a classic rock and roll sound with the littlest shades of Jerry Lee Lewis on piano.
Tambourine, is a giant step in the right direction. Tift Merritt is a brilliant songwriter, performer, and singer with a lot more potential that has yet to be seen. I wouldn't be surprised if she blew us all away in the coming years with more fine examples of how well music can be achieved. As for now though, I guess I will just sit back and enjoy these eleven tracks of pure country and rock and roll. God knows, they are worth it!"
Two For Two For Tift
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 08/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although markedly different from her 2002 debut album BRAMBLE ROSE, TAMBOURINE helps to confirm that Tift Merritt is one of the great female singers of this particular time. For this new album, she successfully integrates a funky 1960s/1970s R&B edge, complete with horn sections and gospel-like backup singers, into a mainstream rock mix, and comes up with a hugely successful album.
TAMBOURINE is boosted by twelve highly original songs from Tift, all of which are never less than interesting, and several which stand out--in particular "Good Hearted Man", "Shadow In The Way", and the ultra-quirky "Your Love Made A U-Turn. Not forgetting her rural roots, however, she returns to rural country-rock with "Laid A Highway", a song very much in the Linda Ronstadt/Emmylou Harris tradition. She is aided and abetted here by Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers), ex-Lone Justice drummer Don Heffington, the Texicali Horns, and Lone Justice's great lead singer Maria McKee (who obviously served as a significant role model for Tift). All of this is pulled together with great skill by Tift and her producer George Drakoulias, who also worked on Maria's 1993 solo project YOU GOTTA SIN TO GET SAVED.
Different from its predecessor, to be sure, TAMBOURINE, however, does share at least one thing with BRAMBLE ROSE, in that it is also different from much of the stuff out there now. Tift has now gone two-for-two in the musical arena with TAMBOURINE, easily one of the best albums of 2004."
Strong 2nd Album from Tift
M. Wilson | Atlanta, GA United States | 08/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After hearing/owning Bramble Rose, I hurried out to get this one when I heard it had hit the stores. And indeed, it proves to be a worthy follow-up to her first CD. The sound is more sophisticated and more sensual. And some of the songs here represent clear steps forward in songwriting for Tift Merritt. My only complaint on this album is that it seems to be reaching just a bit too hard for that "Dusty in Memphis" white-girl soul. On the last album, it worked on the song "Sunday" because it was a more subtle, slow-burning type of soul that better suits Tift's voice. Here, at times, the soulfulness of the album comes off a litte forced. But if you can get past that, the songs are good stuff. My personal favorites are "Laid a Highway" "Stray Paper" and "Aint Lookin Closely""