Album Review: Tift Merritt – Stitch Of The World

Lock it out and don’t return its calls

Swear you don’t know its face at all

Throw it in the river, lose it in the storm

It’ll show up in its bandages tomorrow at your door

Love soldiers on

Love soldiers on

Tift Merritt speaks in unpretentious, charismatic phrases. She carefully chooses every word, delicately and deliberately creating a palette of vivid descriptions that simplify her most raw and poignant feelings. With a pocket full of images and similes like “dashboard sunshine” and “lightning made in the summer heat,” Merritt poetically wanders through her new album, Stitch of the World, the way a novelist would create their masterwork.

Merritt is a national treasure in the Americana world; her vocals are forgiving and modest, cresting intermittently, as strong emotion evokes a heart-wrenching tremble in her voice. She balances vulnerability with fortified mystery, narrating flawlessly enough to yank on the listener’s heartstrings, but projecting herself enough to seem over-accessible. She’s giving, but just enough to make her audience want more.

That balance is important.

She possesses a natural allure most artists can’t manufacture.  For example, “Dusty Old Man,” the album’s opening track, swiftly personifies Merritt. As she conveys a thorny love, tormented with blemishes, she counters with a faithful and optimistic takeaway from the situation: despite the flaws, the devotion and security she receives makes her life better.

Her enthusiasm and warm-hearted humility bleeds through again in “My Boat,” originally penned by poet Raymond Carver in the 1980s; using his words and making them her own, Merritt confesses love for her friends, her favorite details in life, companionship and company and her baby. The song flows deep with a compassionate eagerness towards inclusion, as Merritt repeatedly reminds listeners that there is room on her boat for everything she loves.

What she seemingly wants for herself, and for the world, is love. The theme reoccurs through the album. “Love Soldiers On” reminds us that affection is an immovable and unapologetic force. “Something Came Over Me” dives into the spark of an unexpected moment of connection that sticks to your bones and haunts you from the inside. Throughout Stitch of the World, we are reminded over and over that nothing really matters more than adoration.

Merritt’s ability to seize, then whimsically expound on her feelings is a gift. Her voice is often soft, but accentuated, in a manner similar at times to Joni Mitchell. Her roots are accounted for, with clever and detailed lyrics that could make Alison Krauss and Patti Griffin jealous and Emmylou Harris proud. However, Merritt could easily blaze a trail into crossover territory. “Icarus” possesses an artistic Tori Amos characteristic, and the appearance of Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam brings even more indie credibility to Merritt’s resume, one which already features the likes of Andrew Bird.  One could argue that “Something Came Over Me,” which features masterfully blended vocals by Beam, is the standout track on Stitch of the World.

Conversely, when an artist like Merritt, who has been nominated for a Grammy for a reason, releases an album like Stitch of the World, which should easily crack multiple album of the year lists, every track has the possibility of being faultless.

Stitch of the World is unblemished.

Purchase Stitch of the World, out January 27th via Yep Roc Records: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stitch-of-the-world/id1155008495

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Joshua Hammond

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